L.A. Clippers at Miami Heat
February 8, 2013
5:00 p.m. PST
Eric Bledsoe is averaging 22.3 points, 7.3 assists, 4.7 rebounds, 3.0 steals, and 2.0 blocks over his past three games. Can his high level of play sustain for the rest of the season? Onto 3-on-3:
1. With a 20-3 record at AmericanAirlines Arena, is Miami the best home team in the NBA?
Fred Katz, (@FredKatz): No. I still think that title belongs to San Antonio, who has completely dominated at home over the past two and a half seasons, posting an 86-12 home record over that period. Their 22-2 home record this year is pretty impressive, too.
Jovan Buha, (@jovanbuha): No. I’d lean towards the San Antonio Spurs (22-2) or the Oklahoma City Thunder (22-3), but not just because they have the better record. Miami fans just aren’t very loud or imposing, and while it can be intimidating when Dwyane Wade is tossing 80-foot alley-oops to LeBron James, you’d rather play there than in OKC or San Antonio.
Michael Shagrin, (@mshaggy): Well, yeah. They’re quite simply the best team in basketball and they rarely fail to bring it at home. While Miami’s defense disappointed many at the beginning of the season, it’s since improved tremendously. And moreover, during the last couple of weeks, the Heat offense has really started to buzz. With Lebron as the primary playmaker and scoring as efficiently as ever, Miami’s shooters have increasingly found themselves nailing open spotups from beyond the arc. Scary stuff.
2. How sustainable has Eric Bledsoe’s play over the past three games been?
Katz: Not completely sustainable. But that’s just for this season. Bledsoe can absolutely become a top-10 point guard, but for now he still has flaws. He took 15 shots outside the paint against the Magic, which is something that is counterintuitive to his style of play. He finished with a career-high 27 points because he sank seven of the 15 attempts, but those flat jumpers may not always fall that often.
Buha: Extremely sustainable, but it depends on context. Once Chris Paul is healthy, Bledsoe will drop back to his 18 minutes per game, if not less with Chauncey Billups also set to return. So I don’t see these performances happening much over the rest of the season, barring injury (knocks on wood). In another uniform or in a larger role with the Clippers? The past three games would likely be his nightly statline.
Shagrin: I’ll defer to Chauncey Billups on this one: “He’s done great,” Billups said of Bledsoe. “He’s had some games where he hasn’t produced great numbers, but that’s going to happen with a young guy who’s in a tough situation. His good days are going to far overlook his subpar days. Once he starts to minimize those subpar days, he’s going to be ready.”
3. The Clippers won the first matchup against the Heat. Who wins tonight?
Katz: Miami. The Heat dominate at home and even if any combination of the four injured Clippers plays tonight, who knows how healthy those guys might be? That means Miami might be the safer bet.
Buha: Miami. They haven’t been as dominant as most predicted, but they’re still the championship favorites. There’s no telling which Clippers are going to play or not until game-time, and even then, I doubt any of the four (Paul, Billups, Griffin, Crawford) will be 100 percent. L.A. routed them last time, and I expect Miami to seek revenge.
Shagrin: In all reality, the Heat should win tonight. While Chris Paul more than likely will pick up where he left off before the bruised kneecap, Billups will likely be nowhere near game speed. When Chauncey first returned to the lineup in December, Vinny Del Negro seriously overplayed him, particularly in crunch time. If the Clippers have a chance to win tonight, VDN must soberly evaluate the contributions of his recently activated players.