The Los Angeles Clippers finish their Florida tour with a game against the NBA champions, which following their most recent loss, means the Miami Heat are entering this game as even bigger favorites than they already were set out to be.
LeBron James just had his first big game of the season, scoring 35 points and adding 8 rebounds with 8 assists to lead the Miami Heat over .500 once again in a rather easy win over the Toronto Raptors. Dwyane Wade, despite early fears, has looked mostly healthy when he gets a one day rest between games, averaging 18.5 points per game on 45.8% from the field.
Chris Paul has gotten his name attached to MVP credentials early this season, averaging 24.8 points, 12.6 assists and 3 steals per game. However, the Clippers remain completely reliant on his ability to both energize their weak spot – the defense, and make their offense more than just big men waiting for someone to lob them the ball for a dunk.
A big addition to their developing offensive identity is J.J. Redick, off to a strong start with 17.2 points per game, hitting 49.2% of his field goal attempts. The problem for the Clippers hasn’t been with their offensive ability, but more on the defensive side. It’s less about the numbers (altough giving up 109.6 points is the worst in the league), and more about transition problems and big men rotating on pick and rolls. Against the Miami Heat, who love to P & R on teams and create mismatches through LeBron James, Doc Rivers needs to hope his team is up for the challenge.
New coach, old coach, it doesn’t matter. The Clippers don’t do well when they visit Miami, losing their last four road games against the Heat by an average of 18.8 points. Paul himself has done badly against the Heat in the big three era, averaging only 14 points on 39.7% from the field against them, struggling against the trap everything philosophy, which often puts James or Wade on him.
A big lift for the Heat will be Chris Bosh returning after a short break to be at his wife’s side for the birth of his daughter. He’s averaging 19.8 points on 59.8% from the field early this season.
Prediction – The way to give the Miami Heat problems isn’t with a big man who forces them to struggle in the paint and on the boards, but spacing the floor and stretching their aggressive defense. The Clippers aren’t there yet, nor is their defense, meaning it’s going to be a Miami Heat win.