Miami at L.A. Clippers
Time: 9 PM CST (ESPN)
Spread: LAC -6.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Miami Heat enters as winners of its last two games, and the Los Angeles Clippers have won its last two, as well. The Clippers are 21-5 at home where it hosts the Heat as 6.5-point favorites in the second half of an ESPN doubleheader. The over/under is set at 223 total points according to NBA oddsmakers at 5dimes.
LAC NEWS & NOTES:
The Los Angeles Clippers are 35-15 and trail the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference as the West’s No. 2 team. L.A. ranks No. 4 in scoring at 115.6 per game while limiting teams to 109.6, a point differential of +6.2 points.
Considering its No. 3 and No. 4 scorers both come off the bench, this is done in a different fashion. Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell each average 20 and 19 points per game, respectively and do it in 30 minutes a night or less. That enables Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to keep their minutes around the 30-32 range, as well.
Leonard leads the team in minutes at just 32.1 per game. The Clippers utilize a 10-11 man rotation, with several key role players like Patrick Beverley and Ivica Zubac serving their purposes as defenders and sparks. George is averaging 23.5 points, six rebounds, and 3.7 assists as one of three Clippers with a PER over 20. Leonard is super-efficient and the top-three Clippers all shoot 36 percent or better from three.
Leonard averages 26.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game and has appeared in just 33 games due to load management. With the Clippers resplendent depth, it can afford to rest its superstars and cruise to an easy homeport advantage in the first round.
The Miami Heat lead the Southeast division as one of the NBA’s early surprise teams. Miami has won its last two and is 34-15 thus far. Miami has won seven of its last 10 games.
The Heat seems to be really adapting to having Jimmy Butler as its leader. He has increased the defensive intensity, and Miami’s offense ranks No. 13 at 112.1 points per game while holding opponents to 108.4, a win differential of +3.7 points.
Miami has moved past the play of Hassan Whiteside and instead promoted Bam Adebayo as the premier big man of the team. He has fully responded. Adebayo is averaging 15.8 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game while functioning as a post playmaker. Butler is the key cog, though, at 20.3 points and 7 assists per game. That is not to ignore the great play of undrafted rookie Kendrick Nunn, the No.2 scorer behind Butler at 16.2 points and 3.5 assists per game. For a team that was expected to have offensive issues, it has been far from the case. Miami is shooting 47.3 percent from the floor and 37.9 percent on threes (33.7 attempts per game). Rounding out the rotation is veteran point guard Goran Dragic and rookie Tyler Herro. Both have been essential.
While Dragic’s role has declined, he is still seeing 28.4 minutes per game and averaging just under 16 points per game. Herro is already a key rotation player, playing 27.7 minutes per game and averaging 13.2 points per game while shooting 39.2 percent from three. All in all, the Heat are both a deep and talented team and far better than expected. Credit some of that to Erik Spoelstra, but the rest of the credit falls on a team of players that are all outperforming preseason expectations. The Heat should be able to contend in the East. It poses a formidable threat to all of the contending teams, including the No. 1 seeded Milwaukee Bucks. The Heat are wired for playoff success, and if it obtains Justise Winslow in time to work him into game shape, it will be that much stronger.