The Miami Heat will welcome the Los Angeles Clippers to the American Airlines Arena on Thursday night, starting a homestand where the Heat’s next seven of nine games are in Miami. This is undoubtedly the easiest part of the regular season schedule for the defending champs, with the Clippers providing the toughest test out of these next nine games.
Both teams are extremely deep in terms of players off the bench, but the Heat’s role players (Shane Battier, Norris Cole, Chris Andersen and Ray Allen) are performing at a mediocre level as of late, and this will be a great opportunity for them to bounce back and outshine the Clippers’ role players (Darren Collison, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes and Antawn Jamison).
Currently, the Heat’s bench ranks 15th overall in the NBA, averaging just 33 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists and three steals a game. The Clippers’ bench, on the other hand, ranks 12th in the league, averaging 34 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists and two steals. These statistics may seem similar, but what sets these two benches apart is efficiency.
The Clippers’ bench averages 15 minutes per game, compared to 19 minutes per game from the Heat’s bench, and shoot at a higher percentage from beyond the arc (41 percent compared to the Heat’s 37 percent). Offensively speaking, the Clippers’ bench is performing much more efficiently then what the defending champs’ bench has been doing.
On the other side of the ball, the Clippers are ranked one of the worst teams defensively in the NBA. The Heat’s bench ranks seventh the in the league in terms of defense with a defensive efficiency rating of 12.2. The Clippers? They are ranked 29th in the league with a defensive efficiency rating of -21. This is a huge discrepancy between both squads and could ultimately be the difference in what teams wins on Thursday night.
Defense is what ultimately wins games and eventually championships. If these statistics hold true, the Heat should walk away with the victory on Thursday night, and their bench will be a major reason why.