The LA Clippers had to deal with another lineup change in their Sunday matinee game against the Miami Heat at STAPLES Center. SF Austin Rivers, he of back-to-back 20-point games for the first time in his career, would miss the game with flu-like symptoms. No matter – the Clippers found a way to win without scoring 100 points for the first time in more than two months, and now the Clippers are on their 3rd winning streak of at least 4 games this season.
Top Performer: Clippers PG Chris Paul stayed under 30 minutes (28:52), but he hit the Heat for 19 points, 6 rebounds, 18 assists, and 2 steals, with only 1 turnover. Since entering the NBA in 2005, Paul has 27 career games of at least 15 points, 15 assists, and no more than 1 turnover – no other player has more than 6 such games in that span. And the only other player since 2005 with 19+ points, 18+ assists, 2+ steals, and no more than 1 turnover in a game was Baron Davis, who did it once with the Warriors in January 2008; Paul has now done it twice this season.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 8, 2017
X-Factor: The Clippers allowed fewer than 100 points in back-to-back games for the first time in over a month, and the 86 points scored by the Heat were the fewest the Clippers allowed since November 9, 2016 against the Trail Blazers. Miami shot only 36.9 percent from the field, marking only the 2nd time since after November 9 that the Clippers held a team under 40 percent from the field. The Clippers also hed the Suns to 38.2 percent from the field on January 2. After a December that saw opponents shoot 46.4 percent from the field (ranked 20th in NBA), perhaps the Clippers are coming back around defensively in January.
Major Moment: After Miami backup wing Dion Waiters hit a couple of FTs to open the 2nd quarter and give the Heat a 21-20 lead, the Clippers went on a 27-11 run over a 9-minute span. 8 Clippers scored during this stretch, and Paul had 3 of LA’s 7 assists over this span. LA didn’t have a turnover during the run while shooting 57.1 percent from the field. Miami had only 1 assist on 3-of-14 shooting from the field (21.4 percent), giving the ball away 6 times; Heat not named Hassan Whiteside went 0-for-10 from the field during this stretch. The Clippers had a 47-32 lead by the end of starting SF for a day Raymond Felton’s alley-oop to C DeAndre Jordan with 2:49 left in the 1st half, and Miami never cut LA’s lead to single digits after that.
— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) January 8, 2017
Key Lineup: The Heat went with their 16th starting lineup of the season, starting PG Goran Dragic, SG Wayne Ellington, SF Rodney McGruder, PF Derrick Williams, and C Whiteside. Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra might want to dump that lineup after the unit was outscored 33-14 in 10 minutes, compiling an impossibly bad -103.9 net rating. On the flipside, Felton starting with SG J.J. Redick (game-high 25 points) and Paul for the first time this season worked out in a big way. Along with PF Luc Mbah a Moute and C Jordan (game-high 18 rebounds), LA’s starting lineup outscored the Heat 43-31 in 17 minutes together, compiling a 43.4 net rating.
The Definition: The Clippers are entering a stretch of the season where they can’t complain about anything scheduling related. They play only 4 games over the next 11 days, all of them at home, with 3 of those games being against teams under .500. There’s also an outside chance that PF Blake Griffin returns during this stretch, as his original timetable of 3-6 weeks comes in bounds this week. The Clippers have gone 7-7 without Griffin this season, including 6-6 since Griffin underwent knee surgery in December.
“We had a rough stretch, but I feel like we’re getting back to defending,” Jordan said after the game. “I feel like we’re rebounding the ball, as a team, better. We are just playing good team basketball. We’re moving the ball around, finding the open man and playing the right way.”