We all knew heading into the matchup between the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Clippers that this was going to be a fun one to watch. Both teams have athletes who can get out and run; both have put up a ton of points early in the year, and both are sharing the ball well in transition.
Both of these squads are going to compete for a top seed in their respective conferences in 2013, but it's the Clippers who came out of this one with a 107-100 victory.
The first play of the contest saw LeBron James take advantage of extremely poor defense. He ended up with a wide-open finish at the rim, where the three closest Clippers had their backs facing his way. Los Angeles quickly got it together, though, as they forced two quick turnovers and went on an 8-0 run.
The first quarter saw a lot of easy offense for both sides, but it also featured 11 turnovers between the two teams—seven belonging to the Heat. The Clippers led by one at the end of the period, and they entered the second quarter with a defensive energy we haven’t seen from either team up to that point. The rest of the first half would go back and forth, as Miami would go on top 54-52 heading into the third quarter.
The second half began in familiar fashion, as both teams came out willing to push the tempo and attack the basket. It was an evenly matched quarter almost the entire way through, but then Chris Paul finally got involved offensively, and he helped push the Clippers ahead by nine heading into the game's final period.
Momentum was in L.A.'s favor to begin the final quarter, and they took full advantage of that with an early 10-2 run. The game would slowly even back out, forcing Los Angeles to bring their starters back with three minutes remaining, but the lead was too much to overcome for the Heat, as they couldn't make up enough ground late in the contest.
Chris Paul, PG, L.A.: B
Chris Paul came out in this contest looking to get his teammates involved. He took just four shots in the first half, and his only bucket was a three-pointer late in the shot clock. He also had seven assists at half time.
It wasn't until late in the third quarter that Paul finally got involved in the points column, but when he did, he shifted momentum L.A.'s way with a few key buckets late in the period. Deep three-pointers and drives at the basket made it so Los Angeles was able to pull ahead, and they ultimately never looked back.
Paul's offense was extremely quiet, as he only truly performed in spurts, but he finished the game with 16 points, 10 assists and four steals.
Mario Chalmers, PG, Miami: C-
Mario Chalmers went relatively unnoticed in this game, which is both good and bad for fans of the Miami Heat. The point guard didn't do enough to really leave a mark on this contest, but he also was competent enough to avoid taking the blame when things were going in L.A.'s favor.
On the defensive end, Chalmers was able to collect two steals as a result of both teams playing at a frantic pace. He finished the game with five points on just 2-of-5 shooting—1-of-4 from the three-point line—and he had three assists as well.
Willie Green, SG, L.A.: C+
We all know that Willie Green is filling the starting shooting-guard spot until Chauncey Billups returns, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t filled his role nicely at this point in the season.
On the year, he’s shot the ball well enough to keep defenses honest, and on Wednesday night, he did just that in the second half of the contest.
In the first two quarters, Green missed all of his shots, and he looked as if he would be invisible the entire game. However, he would go on to score two three-pointers early in the third period.
Dwyane Wade, SG, Miami: F
Dwyane Wade was a game-time decision against the Los Angeles Clippers (according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst), which could explain his slow start. In fact, the megastar 2-guard was never able to get himself going, as he finished with just six points on 20-percent shooting.
Wade looked a step slow defensively against the Clippers' speedy guards, and he was blocked on a fast-break dunk attempt by Clippers point guard Eric Bledsoe.
Wade played a horribly inefficient game, but the one area where he played well was in finding his teammates. His ability to find the pass leading to the assist is what kept him somewhat relevant, but even his six assists were practically negated by his five turnovers.
LeBron James, SF, Miami: A
LeBron James played in just one matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2011-12 season, and while he had a solid overall performance (23 PTS, 13 REB, 7 AST), he shot just 7-of-19 from the field in Miami’s overtime loss. This time around, he was more efficient from the field, as he finished with 30 points, five rebounds and seven assists on 12-of-23 shooting.
Defensively, James was given tough assignments throughout the night. In the first half, the small forward was called upon to cover Jamal Crawford, and late in the third quarter, he was switched onto Chris Paul.
The most impressive part of James' performance came late in the game when Erik Spoelstra tried to pull him out of the contest. James was seen on camera pleading to stay in, and he helped lead the comeback that made things interesting late in the game.
Caron Butler, SF, L.A.: B
Caron Butler had one of the more efficient nights of any Los Angeles Clippers player against the Miami Heat. His three-point shot was falling; he was making his free throws, and he finished the game with 15 points.
Butler's three-point shot is where he found most of his production, as he completed 3-of-5 from beyond the arc.
His performance was solid, but it was also quiet. Rarely was he involved in the runs that helped L.A. take the lead, as he was just a plus-two in the plus-minus column.
Blake Griffin, PF, L.A.: A
Blake Griffin entered this game with the kind of aggression needed to challenge the Miami Heat, but it was his jump shot that was icing on the cake for the power forward.
Through two quarters, Griffin had played one of his best halves of basketball on the season, and he would take that momentum forward into his second-half performance.
Less than two minutes into the third quarter, Griffin already had a double-double. He was a rebounding machine all night long, and he was productive on offense.
The big man finished with 20 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks while shooting 50 percent from the field and 4-of-6 from the foul line.
Shane Battier, PF, Miami: C+
Shane Battier has had his fair share of tough matchups early in the year, and the game versus L.A. proved to be no different against Blake Griffin.
Offensively, Battier did what he has done throughout his time with Miami. He helped spread the floor; he kept defenses honest, and he made two of his four three-point attempts.
The problem was on the defensive end, where Battier was taken advantage of all game. He is known throughout the league as somewhat of a defensive specialist, but he was beaten both down low and on the perimeter by one of the game's best young power forwards.
DeAndre Jordan, C, L.A.: C+
DeAndre Jordan had an efficient game against the Miami Heat, but it was one of the more quiet performances of any L.A. starter.
Jordan finished the game with eight points on 4-of-6 shooting, and he also pulled down six rebounds en route to the victory.
The big man really didn't do much to solidify the win, especially considering he didn't play much late. But he also wasn't detrimental to the team's offense the way Chris Bosh was in this contest.
Chris Bosh, C, Miami: C-
Chris Bosh’s move to center has created mismatches all season long, as his ability to spread the floor has allowed him to shoot over—or drive past—his defenders with ease. Unfortunately for the big man, his shot wasn't falling against Los Angeles, as he finished the game just 3-of-13 from the field.
His shooting woes were so bad that when he finally made an open shot late in the fourth quarter, he tilted his head back and gave a look of pure relief, which isn't something you usually see from such a knock-down shooter.
Bosh did have nine rebounds and three blocks to keep him relevant in this game, but his role is to spread the floor and hit the open jumpers, which is something he simply didn't do against the Clippers.
Jamal Crawford, SF, L.A.: A
Jamal Crawford, aka J. Crossover, was up to his usual tricks against the Miami Heat, as he showed Ray Allen a thing or two about dribbling Wednesday night.
The backup shooting guard is the only reserve leading his team in points per game, and he made his impact felt immediately upon entering the contest, scoring seven points on 3-of-3 shooting in just four first-quarter minutes.
Crawford went on to finish the game with 22 points—a team high—as he helped both early and late in the game.
Ray Allen, SG, Miami: B
The downside to being matched up against Jamal Crawford is that you have to defend one of the quickest crossovers in the game while also worrying about his deadly jump shot. The plus side, however, is that you're going to get opportunities to score against a player who rarely excels on defense.
Ray Allen had a good shooting night from the floor. He finished with 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting, and in typical Allen fashion, he was running the sidelines to help spread the floor for the Big Three.
He struggled, however, to stop Crawford from scoring, which led to the Clippers 2-guard having such a successful night.
Los Angeles Clippers: A
The Los Angeles Clippers bench was impressive Wednesday night. They finished with 41 points, and they even got a big-time performance from someone not named Jamal Crawford.
Eric Bledsoe had a great shooting night, as he shot well from the field. He finished with 12 points, and he provided energy on both the offensive and defensive sides of the floor.
Other than Bledsoe and Crawford, the team's bench was quiet. Matt Barnes did record six points and four rebounds, but his shot was inefficient all game. Fortunately for Los Angeles, their starters played at a high level, so two major contributors were enough to make a difference.
Miami Heat: B-
The bench for the Miami Heat was able to have an impact in the first half, and it was primarily because of the deep-range shooting of Rashard Lewis. The 33-year-old forward came in and made his first four shots, including 3-of-3 from behind the arc.
The Heat played seven players off the bench, and all of them managed to get on the scoreboard, but the thing to realize is that some of it took place during garbage time.
With the exception of a few Ray Allen buckets in the second half, the bench mostly did its thing early in the game. They scored 39 points, but it wasn't enough to keep the Heat from falling in Los Angeles.