Before Friday’s game at Miami between the LA Clippers and the Heat, Miami C Hassan Whiteside had this to say about LA C DeAndre Jordan, via Tom D’Angelo of Palm Beach Post:
“He catches lobs. I shoot jumpers, catch lobs, block shots. I do a lot. He just catches lobs.”
Hot take from the Miami Heat! Wait, there’s more:
“It don’t really matter to me who I’m guarding,” Whiteside said. “I just come out here and just play. He catches lobs. He has CP3 as a point guard.”
I hope that didn’t throw Miami PG Goran Dragic under the bus, but I digress. Keep the taeks coming:
“I kind of just compete against myself. I don’t really pay attention to any other centers. I’m still trying to beat 12 blocks. I don’t see any other centers. I just compete against Whiteside every day. I’m going to try to outdo myself last game.”
Well, damn. This is what I like! None of that boilerplate, fake complimentary chivalry. Tell me how you really feel!
Of course, all of this set up Jordan for that annoying Internet phenomenon known as “The Perfect Response”, when life’s punching bag delivers the punchline. Let’s see how Jordan did there, via Dan Woike of The Orange County Register:
“I do catch lobs. I made first-team All-NBA and first-team All-Defense doing that.”
Oh snap! The people spoke before the game, and for what it’s worth, Jordan had the confidence of the masses entering tonight:
The Clippers stay in Florida tonight to visit Miami. Would you rather have 28-year-old DeAndre Jordan or 27-year-old Hassan Whiteside?
— ClipperBlog (@clipperblog) December 16, 2016
This game was for the 5 percent. It was another example of the Clippers making things much more difficult than they needed to be, as they saw a 76-60 lead with 4:00 minutes left in the 3rd quarter dwindle down to 99-98 with 10.5 left on the clock. Clippers PG Chris Paul was fouled and split a pair of FTs, missing the 2nd shot with the Clippers up only 100-98 with 9.4 left to play. But Jordan swooped in, grabbed his game-high 19th rebound of the game, and took advantage of an absent Whiteside to score and give the Clippers a 102-98 lead that would also stand as the game’s final.
Now, if we’re going to focus on this being Whiteside vs Jordan, then we can conclude that Jordan had the better night:
Enough of that nonsense. Let’s get into why the Clippers got up so much, how the Heat managed to crawl back, and what ultimately mattered in the end.
The Clippers were rolling in the 1st half, riding PF Blake Griffin to 14 1st-half points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field. The Clippers shot 52.3 percent from the field in the 1st half, compared to only 38.3 percent by the Heat. LA led 60-46 at halftime after a Griffin buzzer beater, then had their biggest lead of the game at 16 points with just under 4 minutes left in the 3rd quarter. Griffin had 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the field at that point.
Stop me if you have heard this before, but the Clippers offense proceeded to go into the tank for most of the last 16 minutes of the game. Starting at 3:40 left in the 3rd quarter until just over 10 seconds left in regulation, Miami cut 15 points off of that 16-point Clippers lead, going on a 38-23 extended run. Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra filled the court with tall, long, versatile, and skilled athletes off his bench like guard Josh Richardson, big man James Johnson, and forward Justise Winslow. Those three combined to score 27 of Miami’s 38 points during this period, while the Clippers were held to 6-of-24 from the field (25.0 percent). As usual, Griffin was ignored down the stretch, missing his only shot attempt while turning the ball over twice. LA also missed 8 of 9 threes down the stretch while combining for only 2 assists against 5 turnovers.
Fortunately for the Clippers, Miami couldn’t really shoot either. If they could, then the Heat would have won this game. Instead, Miami went 1-of-7 from three in the 4th quarter and 6-of-27 (22.2 percent) for the game. Miami also made only 16-of-25 FTs (64.0 percent); while LA also struggled to shoot the three (7-of-28, 25.0 percent), they were once again efficient and voluminous from the stripe (23-of-29, 79.3 percent). SG J.J. Redick led the team by making 5-of-6 FTs to offset a porous shooting night (5-of-16 FGs, 2-of-9 threes), but he and SF Austin Rivers (starting in place of Luc Mbah a Moute) failed to connect on a key inbound that allowed the Heat to cut the lead to 1.
The Clippers all-bench lineup (Raymond Felton-Jamal Crawford-Alan Anderson-Wesley Johnson-Marreese Speights) did well in this one, compiling a 58.0 net rating and outscoring Miami 17-8 in 7 minutes. Curiously, Doc Rivers only put Austin Rivers with the bench for only a minute.
But back to the main thing you’ll remember this game for: Jordan and Whiteside. I’m just appreciative that two centers can be the center of attention for a bit. Neither big man was interested in stirring up anything extra after the game.
“No,” Jordan said when asked if Whiteside’s comments gave him extra fuel. “I just wanted to come out here and get the win. I like this city a lot. To come out here and get a win was cool.”
“That was an experienced team out there,” Whiteside said after the game. “They’ve been together five years. Things didn’t work out.”