LOS ANGELES, CA- To open his 1,000th career NBA game, 16-year Miami Heat swingman Dwyane Wade splashed two 3-pointers within the game’s first six minutes and poured in 16 first-half points. Wade finished with 25 points (five 3-pointers), six rebounds and six assists in 32 minutes to spearhead Miami’s 121-98 win over the early season Western Conference powerhouse Los Angeles Clippers.
Clippers forward Danilo Gallinari (12 points) said of Wade, “(Dwyane Wade) was the MVP of this game. He was the best player on the court and unfortunately, he was able to play his best game tonight. He is an amazing player and being able to do what he did tonight, at his age, is impressive.”
LAC guard Lou Williams (18 points off the bench) added, “(Wade’s) got superpowers.”
Without two starters (Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside), role players stepped up for the Heat and held the Clippers to just eight fourth quarter points.
Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra said, “When you are coaching in this league, you want to have a group like this. When they show up for shoot-around and you find out that more guys are not playing. But, guys look forward to the challenge, instead of trying to make an excuse and get on to the next game.”
Miami power forward James Johnson scored 18 points and snatched eight rebounds. Guard Rodney McGruder contributed 11 points and center Bam Adebayo (14 points and eight rebounds) supplied plenty of highlight dunks. Kelly Olynyk collected a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
“We have to be better defensively,” LAC head coach Doc Rivers said.
Tobias Harris starred for the Clippers with 20 points and six rebounds. Montrezl Harrell added 10 points. Defensive stallworth Patrick Beverley picked up seven rebounds.
Wade missed two key free throws late and the Heat kept possession. McGruder drew LAC defenders and lobbed to Adebayo who dunked to give the Heat a 97-92 lead with just over nine minutes left. Wade swished his fifth 3 of the night and six possessions later, Doc Rivers picked up his first technical foul. Rivers drew a second technical nearly 10 seconds after for an automatic ejection. Miami extended their lead to 15, sealing a road victory.
Rivers said, “At the end of the day, we gave up a hundred and something points. I wasn’t out there. When I left I didn’t know what the score was.”
Nearly seven minutes into third quarter action, Beverly fouled Wade with a clear path to the rim. Wade shot 1-of-2 from the line and Adebayo scored inside to give Miami an 85-80 advantage. Harrell and Harris then combined to score five points to tie the score. Mike Scott hit a 3-pointer to put LAC in-front, but Wade responded by drawing a foul and sinking two free throws. As the final seconds of the third quarter winded down, Harris missed a 3-pointer and James Johnson took the ball coast-to-coast for a layup. Miami held a tight 91-90 lead after
Beverly caught the ball in the right corner and drove towards the rim. Harris cut down the middle, caught a dime from Beverly and slammed the ball home with two hands plus a foul. After Harris nailed the free throw, Miami’s lead dropped to just three at 58-55 with 1:30 remaining in the first half. James Johnson couldn’t convert on a 3-point attempt and Williams capitalized at the other end for LAC, scoring while fouled. Williams hit the free throw and Avery Bradley scored off a Clipper steal to give LAC a one-point lead.
Wade fired right back for Miami, responding with two straight 3-pointers. The Heat took a 65-62 lead into halftime. Harris scored 16 first-half points for LAC.
James Johnson posted 8 first quarter points to lead all scorers early on and put Miami ahead, 34-30 at the end of one.
Wade spun through the lane and scored to keep Miami’s lead in double digits, roughly four minutes into the second quarter. Heat second-year forward Derrick Jones Jr. (7 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks) drove inside the paint, tossed the ball off the backboard to himself and flushed down a two-handed slam to extend Miami’s first half advantage, leading 56-49 with just inside three minutes left in the second quarter.
Spoelstra said of Jones’ performance, “I thought (Jones) down the stretch made his presence felt. The big rebounds on both ends of the court, his athleticism, the blocks, all of those things really contributed.”
Wade said after the game, “At this point in my career, I’ve proven that I can play basketball. I don’t need to prove anymore. Every time I get an opportunity to do something like this is obviously great and special.”
Miami made 43.5 percent of their field goal attempts, while LAC made less than 38 percent of theirs. The Clippers also shot just 24.1 percent from beyond the arc.
Rivers said, “There’s no doubt (missing wide open shots) happens. I don’t want to be a team that if your offense is not going well then you’re going to stop playing defense. That’s what we were tonight. So, we’ll learn from that.”
The Heat outscored LAC 30-8 in the fourth quarter. Miami forced the Clippers into 15 turnovers and outrebounded LAC, 27-16. The lead changed hands 11 times.
The Miami Heat improve to 11-14, 6-5 on the road. LAC fall to 9-2 at home and 16-9 overall. Miami is on the outside looking in when it comes to the Eastern Conference playoff picture, currently sitting at 10th. Miami stays in Los Angeles for a matchup with LeBron James and the Lakers on Monday, Dec. 10.
Despite the loss, LAC have gotten off to a hot start and sit inside the Western Conference top four. The Clippers head to Phoenix (Monday, Dec. 10) before returning home for a duel with Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors (Tuesday, Dec. 11).
Blake Atwell is a multimedia journalist and sophomore at Santa Monica College.