The Los Angeles Clippers might be missing four of the five starters that played during their last meeting with the Miami Heat earlier this season, but it took a career night from Josh Richardson and clutch baskets late in the game to outlast the Clippers 90-85 at the AmericanAirlines Arena on Saturday night.
Coach Erik Spoelstra secured win #455 to become the Heat coach with the most career victories under his belt, surpassing his mentor Pat Riley. Miami also improved to 15-14 and a game over .500, having won four of their last five games, in the increasingly tight playoff race in the East. Richardson was easily the Heat’s best player tonight, scoring 28 points on an efficient 10-16 shooting, including 6-8 from beyond the arc.
Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters and especially Tyler Johnson struggled with their shot and James Johnson was lost to an apparent right ankle injury in the first quarter and did not return. The Heat led the most of the way however, and in fact soon afterwards opened up their first double-digit lead after losing Johnson.
The Clippers’ 8-0 lead to open the second quarter trimmed the lead to 23-24 before a pair of 3-pointers from the Heat and a chase down block by Richardson got them right back into the game. L.A. also sprinted out to a 9-0 run early in the third quarter to keep it close. Though the Clippers tied the game several times during the evening, the Heat found a way to respond each time.
Richardson led with not just his offense but with solid defense, helping to limit Lou Williams to 13 points, and three blocks. Kelly Olynyk pitched in with nine of his 11 points scored in the fourth quarter, when the Clippers made one last run to briefly take the lead late in the game. Williams’ 3-pointer gave the Clippers a one-point lead with 1:50 left, but Dragic immediately responded with a jumper to give the Heat the lead they wouldn’t relinquish again.