The LA Clippers are taking on the Miami Heat at home on Thursday night, and will look to make it six-straight wins. The Heat will be on the second night of a back-to-back, after falling to the Lakers in overtime on Wednesday.
The Clippers have won five-straight games, but have yet to face a test like the Miami Heat during that stretch of wins. With the offseason addition of Kyle Lowry, the Heat expect to be contenders again in the Eastern Conference. The team started out 7-2, and while they have dropped their last two games, this is certainly a big test for the Clippers.
One of the most interesting trends to watch for in this game will be how the Heat opt to defend Paul George. Since Kawhi Leonard came to the Clippers, few teams have sent a more aggressive trap at him than the Miami Heat. With Kawhi sidelined, it would not be at all surprising to see this defensive attention sent at Paul George.
As a result of this aggressive trap from Miami, the Clippers got multiple big games from Landry Shamet against the Heat during the 2019-20 season. With Miami opting to aggressively double Kawhi, and force the ball out of his hands, Shamet was the beneficiary of this added space. He put up 22 points against the Heat in January of 2020, and followed that performance up with 23 points against them in February. Both games were his season-highs.
While Landry Shamet is no longer on the Clippers, and Kawhi Leonard will not play in this game, a similar development seems possible with Paul George and Luke Kennard. If the Heat choose to force the ball out of George's hands, shooters like Luke Kennard or Nicolas Batum should be ready to make them pay.
As it pertains to this point, it is important to note that coach Ty Lue does not plan on changing his starting lineup any time soon. This means Eric Bledsoe, despite his seemingly unnatural fit with the starting unit, will remain in that role. While Bledsoe is coming off of a solid performance in his last game, his place in the starting lineup could allow the Heat more freedom to trap Paul George while leaving Bledsoe open. The possibility of him exploiting this defensive strategy is much lower than a guy like Luke Kennard.
While George has yet to see a consistent double-team like the one Miami may deploy, there is a distinct difference between the way he is able to play with Eric Bledsoe on the floor as opposed to when he is on the bench. In the 218 minutes that George and Bledsoe have shared the floor this season, the Clippers have a 101.2 ORTG, 105.3 DRTG, and a -4.0 NTRG. These numbers improve exponentially in the 132 minutes that George has played without Bledsoe. In these minutes, the team's ORTG jumps to 114.8, their DRTG improves significantly to 92.9, and their total NTRG jumps to a dominant +21.9 clip. George himself is also shooting 10% higher from the field when Bledsoe is on the bench as opposed to when they are sharing the floor. Even when Bledsoe is playing well, his pairing with George is just not a clean fit. This is something to watch for in Thursday's game vs. the Heat.
For the Heat, it is still unannounced whether or not their best player will be available for this matchup. Jimmy Butler suffered an ankle sprain in the first quarter of Wednesday's matchup with the Lakers. He is currently listed as questionable for this game against the Clippers. Along with Butler, Markieff Morris is also questionable with a neck injury, and Victor Oladipo is out with a knee injury.
For the Clippers, the same trio of Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris, and Jason Preston will be sidelined with injuries, while Amir Coffey, Jay Scrubb, Keon Johnson, Serge Ibaka, and Brandon Boston Jr. attend G-League assignments. For Ibaka, this is expected to solely be a rehab assignment, as he will likely not actually play in a G-League game.
There is a lot to watch for in this one, as the Clippers look to push their winning streak out to six games.
How to Watch
Matchup: LA Clippers (6-4) vs. Miami Heat (7-4)
Date: November 11th, 2021
Time: 7:30 PM PST
Venue: Staples Center
Broadcast: NBA TV and Bally Sports
Spread: Clippers -2.5
Moneyline: Clippers -136, Heat +116
Point Total: O/U 214.5
Odds courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook