Clippers stumble into matchup with Heat
A few years ago, the Los Angeles Clippers visiting the Miami Heat would've been a big deal: Dunks by Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, smart plays from LeBron James and Chris Paul, 3-pointers drilled by Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.
Almost none of that will be in evidence on Wednesday night, when the Clippers visit the Heat in a battle of mediocre teams.
Of the stars mentioned above, only Wade remains on one of the rosters -- and he is now a Heat reserve in the final season of his stellar NBA career.
Miami enters Wednesday in seventh place in the Eastern Conference playoff race, just a half-game ahead of the Charlotte Hornets. The Heat are just three games ahead of a pace that would push them out of the playoffs completely.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has drawn criticism lately over his decisions on who plays and who doesn't. Guard Dion Waiters complained about his lack of minutes just last week.
Following his angry words, Waiters scored 21 points in 22 minutes against the Chicago Bulls on Saturday and then followed that up on Monday by scoring 18 points in 26 minutes against the Boston Celtics.
On the other end of the spectrum on Monday in a 107-99 defeat at Boston, two Miami players who have contributed significantly this season -- shooting guard Wayne Ellington and power forward Kelly Olynyk -- did not play due to the coach's decision.
"You never know what's going on," Olynyk said. "It's tough mentally. It's tough physically."
Meanwhile, the Clippers lost to the Mavericks 106-98 on Tuesday night in Dallas, missing 16 consecutive shots during one second-half stretch.
Jordan, the former Clippers star now playing for Dallas, had 13 points, 16 rebounds and four blocked shots.
The Clippers, who have dropped six of their past seven games, are without forward Danilo Gallinari, their second-leading scorer. Gallinari, who is averaging 19 points and six rebounds, has already missed two games in a row due to back spasms.
"We obviously felt it was serious enough for him to stay at home. We have to just take care of him," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said after Los Angeles began its trip with a win at San Antonio on Sunday.
The Clippers, who were outscored in the paint 44-32 by the Mavs, got their third-leading scorer back on Tuesday as guard Lou Williams scored 15 points in 23 minutes of his familiar super-sub role. He had missed the previous two games due to hamstring soreness.
Tobias Harris, the Clippers' leading scorer (20.7 points per game) and rebounder (eight per game), was held to nine points and seven boards on Tuesday. He shot 1-for-9 from the floor, including 1-for-6 on 3-point attempts.
The Heat have won three consecutive games in the series with the Clippers, including a 121-98 rout at Los Angeles on Dec. 8. The Heat outscored the Clippers 30-8 in the fourth quarter of that game even though Miami's Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside and Josh Richardson did not play.
Dragic remains out due to a knee injury, but the rest of the Heat players are healthy, which is what's causing all the stress regarding playing-time decisions.
The Heat, it seems, doesn't have any great players, but they do have a bunch of guys with similar skills, giving Spoelstra options ... and some headaches, too.
"Coach has to do his job," said Olynyk, referring to Spoelstra. "I don't envy him. It's not an easy job.
"I guess the beauty of it is that you have a lot of options. You can go a thousand ways."
--Field Level Media
Updated January 23, 2019