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GAME PREVIEW: Heat host Clippers seeking win 455 for coach Erik Spoelstra

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After a narrow win in Charlotte, Miami hopes to duplicate Spoelstra’s first win as the Heat’s head coach.

NBA: Miami Heat at Charlotte Hornets Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat (14-14) come home for their second and final encounter against the Los Angeles Clippers (11-16) on the second night of a back-to-back sets for both teams.

Game Information

When: Saturday, December 16 at 8:00 p.m. ET

Where: American Airlines Arena, Miami, FL

TV: Fox Sports Sun

Radio: WAXY 790AM, WAQI 710AM (Spanish)

Win probability: ESPN predictor gives Miami a 59.3% chance to win.

Probable Starters

HEAT: Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, Josh Richardson, James Johnson, Kelly Olynyk

HORNETS: Milos Teodosic, C.J. Williams, Wesley Johnson, Jamil Wilson, DeAndre Jordan

Injury (assignment) Report

HEAT: Rodney McGruder (out, tibia surgery), Okaro White (out, foot surgery), Hassan Whiteside (out, knee bone bruise), Justise Winslow (out, knee strain), A.J. Hammons (assignment, G-League), Derrick Walton Jr. (assignment, G-League), Matt Williams (assignment, G-League)

HORNETS: Patrick Beverley (out, knee), Danilo Gallinari (out, glute contusion), Blake Griffin (out, knee), Austin Rivers (questionnable, 48-hour concussion protocol), Milos Teodosic (probable, foot)

Scouting Report

Los Angeles is 5-5, and Miami 5-5 in their last 10 games. The Clippers are 5-9 on the road, while the Heat is 5-7 at home. Miami has lost 7 of their 12 games, and 4 of 5 at home against Western Conference teams. The Clippers have lost 7 of their 11 games against Eastern Conference rivals. The Heat lost all 11 of their games when trailing going into the 4th quarter, while the Clips are 0-8 when behind entering the last quarter.

The Clippers might start both of their players on G-League two-way contracts, Jamil Wilson and C.J. Williams.

Dragic leads the Heat in points per game (16.8) and assists (4.5), Richardson in steals (1.2), Whiteside in rebounds (12.7) and blocks (1.6). Olynyk averages 5.3 rebounds and 0.46 blocks per game. Griffin leads the Clippers in points per game (23.6) and assists (5.1), Beverley in steals (1.7), Jordan in rebounds (14.7) and blocks (1.1).

Since being named player of the week on Nov. 27, when Dragic averaged 23.7 points on 57% shooting, and 4.3 assists for three games, he’s cooled down to 11.8 PPG on 37.9% FG%, with 0.7 3PtMakes on 25.0% 3P%, 4.1 APG over the last 9 games.

Goran converted a total of just 6 3-point baskets out of his 24 tries in his last 9 games. Over same time span, Tyler Johnson is 21 of 41, Richardson 20 of 41, and Wayne Ellington 27 of 65 from downtown.

In the same 9 games, his backcourt partner, Waiters, attempted a team second-most 50 3-pointers and made only 14 of them. During that span, Dion hoisted the most field attempts, 112, of any player on the team, and has the worst FG%, 37.5% of them all. Dragic, the other starting guard, is second to last at 37.9% FG% on 39 of 103 shooting.

The starting backcourt has a combined 37.7 FG% and 27.0 3P%, with a NBA second-worst plus/minus of -150 (Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball are -152), in their previous 9 games. Other teams let them shoot 3-pointers to make basketball life difficult for the frontcourt players, such as Olynyk, Richardson, Bam Adebayo, James Johnson. By the way, missing 73% of their 3-points equals empty possessions almost 34 of time, less offensive rebounds by Miami.

Even the Charlotte Observer, “Charlotte Hornets can’t bench the bench, but something must change, and soon,” shouted out the starter-bench disparity in the Hornets’ loss to the Heat.

Appealing as this option might sound, it’s not an option for the Charlotte Hornets to play exclusively starters all 48 minutes of an NBA game.

Friday’s box score was telling in that fashion[+/-]. All five Hornets starters were in the plus column. All six reserves who played were in the minus column.

This concludes the Heat’s third back-to-back set of games this season. Thus far Miami is 0-2 in the second game of back-to-backs, while the Clippers are 0-4 on the tail end of those pairs. This game also finishes their season series: the Heat defeated the Clippers in Los Angeles, 104-101, earlier in the season

Coach Erik Spoelstra will try to win a franchise record 455th game as Miami’s head coach. His first win as the Heat’s floor strategist was on Oct. 31, 2008 at American Airlines Arena over the Sacramento Kings, 103-77. His starting lineup featured rookies Mario Chalmers and Michael Beasley, plus Shawn Marion, and the duo of Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem. The remainder of Spo’s inaugural rotation players included Daequan Cook, Marcus Banks, Shaun Livingston, Mark Blount, Dorell Wright, Joel Anthony, and Yakhouba Diawara.

The Heat started off fast in that one with a 49-31 lead at halftime, and 78-47 going into the fourth quarter. No 2-point difference in the last two minutes that time around. Hopefully tonight’s Clippers game follows the same successful script.