Clippers no longer seeking respect
by Sam Amick, USA TODAY Sports
LOS ANGELES – This wasn’t the L.A. team the Miami Heat were supposed to be worried about.
The Clippers had earned respect from the champs and others, to be sure, having survived that test of wills against Memphis in the first round last May when it was made clear that this new foundation – Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and their many friends – was to be taken seriously. But the new-look Lakers, with Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant and the boys, were the new threat to the crown, right?
Not at the moment.
The Clippers (6-2) put on a clinic against Miami (6-3) in their 107-100 win on Wednesday night, showing no compassion for an ailing Dwyane Wade (sprained left foot) while continuing to showcase this roster that is deep and dynamic and so very dangerous thus far. Chris Paul did what top 10 talents do, taking over in three minutes of MVP-caliber play late in the third quarter when he scored the final 10 points – a deep three, a slightly-less-deep three and free throws – to put the Clippers up 11 entering the fourth. Those were 10 of his 16 points on the night, to go with 10 assists and infinite praise from a Heat group that has officially taken notice.
“We know and respect what these guys are about,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said afterward. “We view them as legit contenders for the title, and they were that last year and they improved with their offseason, so they played a good game.
“They have proven guys that have been starters before, and now they’ve sacrificed to be a part of this. There’s no question they’re one of the deeper teams in the league.”
James, who had 30 points and seven assists and was virtually alone on offense save for a 14-point effort from Ray Allen, had no problem raving about the longtime friend who has his Clippers making major strides this season.
“They’ve got a great bunch, and those guys all work well together,” James said. “It starts with Chris, and trickles down to everyone else. They’re playing some good basketball.