Clippers hope to cool down Heat in Miami

NBA
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The Miami Heat, owners of the NBA’s best home record this season, will play host to the road-weary Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night.

Miami, which is 20-1 at American Airlines Arena this season, has won its last two home games in overtime. In fact, the Heat also lead the league with an 8-0 record in OT.

The only stain on Miami’s home mark this season came Dec. 13, when the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Heat 113-110.

In Wednesday’s 134-129 win over the Washington Wizards, the Heat received excellent bench production — 74 points, 19 rebounds and 16 assists. The reserves were led by Tyler Herro (25 points) and Goran Dragic (22 points, 10 assists).

Miami’s reserves on Wednesday also included Kelly Olynyk (14 points) and James Johnson (seven points).

Johnson started this season inactive as the Heat organization said he reported to camp out of prime condition. To his credit, Johnson has worked hard to get back in the good graces of Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.

“I don’t blame anybody else,” Johnson said. “I have the utmost respect for Coach ‘Spo.’ If you are in that position (being out of shape), then you probably did it to yourself.”

Johnson has played in seven straight games. Before that, he had played in just seven of 37 contests.

“I never let myself get in a bad place mentally,” Johnson said. “I remain focused and worked. I had to look in the mirror, and I did.”

Miami’s current starting lineup features Jimmy Butler, who leads the team in points (20.3), assists (6.5) and steals (1.8); Rookie of the Year candidate Kendrick Nunn; 3-point shooter Duncan Robinson and post players Bam Adebayo and Meyers Leonard.

The Clippers are 19-4 at home but just 12-10 on the road. This will be the fourth in a six-game trip for the Clippers, who had their winning streak snapped at four on Wednesday in a 102-95 loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

On one day’s rest — which will be the case on Friday — the Clippers are 18-7 this season.

This will be the first time this season the Clippers and Heat have met. They split two games last season, when each team won on the road.

The good news for the Clippers is 6-foot-7 forward Kawhi Leonard is expected to return after resting Wednesday. Kawhi Leonard, who signed with the Clippers as a free agent this past summer, leads the team in scoring (27.1), rebounds (7.4) and steals (2.0). He is also second in assists (5.0) and is a two-time NBA Finals MVP.

Clippers 6-8 forward Paul George, a six-time All-Star averaging 23.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.5 steals, has missed seven straight games due to a strained left hamstring. But while George has been out, Kawhi Leonard has found an even higher level, averaging 36.0 points.

“Everybody’s just giving the effort of their mind and body,” Leonard said. “We want to compete and make winning plays.”

George and defensive-minded point guard Patrick Beverley (groin) are questionable for Friday’s game, and their absences could hurt the team’s chances against Miami.

But the Clippers have a couple of aces off the bench in 6-1 guard Lou Williams (19.9 points) and 6-8 power forward Montrezl Harrell (19.4 points).

Williams, 33, is the NBA’s career leader in points off the bench and has been named the league’s Sixth Man of the Year three times. Harrell, 25, is on pace for a career year. Both players are former second-round picks.

–Field Level Media

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