Rapid Reaction: Heat 111, Clippers 89
February, 8, 2013
By Arash Markazi | ESPNLosAngeles.com
MIAMI -- The Los Angeles Clippers knew there would be an adjustment period when they all were finally healthy, but they never expected this.
All the good feelings that filled the visitors locker room at AmericanAirlines Arena on Friday night quickly evaporated as soon as the Clippers hit the court to play the Miami Heat. That's when they crashed headfirst into LeBron James & Co.
James finished with 30 points on 9-of-11 shooting with six assists and five rebounds as the Heat blew out the Clippers 111-89, leading by as many as 32 points in the second half.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
The narrative entering Friday night's game was that for the first time this season, the Clippers' roster was at full strength. After missing a variety of games this season, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups and Jamal Crawford were back in the lineup again after all missed Wednesday's game at Orlando. The Clippers knew it wouldn't be a perfect fit from the opening tip, but they never expected to be humiliated on national television, either. Paul picked up two quick fouls and played only 4 minutes, 25 seconds in the first quarter. Billups played only 5:09 in the opening period. Griffin, who finished with 13 points and five rebounds, and Crawford, who finished with 13 points and three assists, were the only two who looked remotely comfortable in their return. Paul had only three points and was 1-of-5 shooting. Billups finished with seven points and was 2-of-5 shooting.
Maybe the biggest concern for the Clippers when they finally got healthy was how their rotations would look. With 13 players able to play, who would actually get on the court and who would stay on the bench? Well, it has been only one game, but Friday night, Grant Hill didn't play, and Willie Green, who had started all but three games this season, played only the final 7:05 of the game. Rotations were certainly not a reason the Clippers got blown out by the Heat, but moving forward, it's something they will have to figure out to avoid confusion and bitterness over playing time.
"We've got to get our rotations down, figure out who's healthy and what we can go to at certain times," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said before the game. "And that's going to take a little more concentration on our guys' part and understanding what we can do out there on a consistent basis."
A Tribe Called Bench
You would have thought the biggest benefactor of a healthy Clippers team would be the re-emergence of the bench. After all, it would get Eric Bledsoe back as the main point guard and Crawford back as the playmaking sixth man, and mix in Green and Lamar Odom, who had been thrust into starting roles recently. Maybe it will come together in the future, but it didn't look quite ready for show time Friday night, as Crawford was the only player to score more than 13 points and the bench did much of its scoring in garbage time when the game had long since been decided.
"We're trying to get our team back together," Del Negro said before the game. "Right now, it's just about trying to manage through the injuries, trying to see if we can become whole as we move through this long road trip."