There are times when the Miami Heat play defense that it looks like six players are on the court instead of five. This was the case on Thursday night when the defending champs’ high-intensity defensive schemes overwhelmed Chris Paul and the Los Angeles Clippers, 102-97.
The Clippers’ offense runs solely through Paul when he is on the court, so the easiest way to stop them from gaining any offensive momentum is to double-team Paul as soon as he touches the ball. This has been a successful formula for the Heat, especially when playing against some of the quicker point guards in the league (Derrick Rose and Deron Williams included). The Heat are crisp on defensive rotations and are extremely quick off double teams, which can make their coverage seem stifling to the opponent at times.
Holding Paul to 11 points, 12 assists and five rebounds in last night’s matchup has to be one of Miami’s biggest defensive accomplishments, considering Paul came into the game averaging 24.8 point per game. His offensive limitations due to the stifling defense pressure is what helped the Heat gain momentum.
Behind a surging Dwyane Wade, the Miami offense took the lead in the third quarter, outscoring the Clippers 24-17. This gave the Heat enough of an edge to hold a steady lead throughout the rest of the fourth quarter, even with LeBron James sitting out most of it due to lower back soreness.
This game was another brilliant showcase of championship-caliber defense for the Heat, and also showed how much further defensively the Clippers need to develop in order to put them selves into the conversation for serious NBA title contention.