Heat a great measuring stick for Clippers
NOV 13, 2012 4:04p ET
The Clippers have victories over four playoff teams from last season, they lead the Pacific Division with a 5-2 record and they face the defending champion Miami Heat on Wednesday night at Staples Center, but the airwaves can’t seem to get enough of the soap opera that surrounds LA’s other team.
A little acknowledgement please?
“To us, all that stuff is irrelevant,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said Tuesday. “It’s early in the season; there’s been a lot of things going on over there. It’s understandable. We’re focused on what we can control and our preparation. We’re looking at the big picture.”
Compared to the Lakers, the Clippers look absolutely stable. The Lakers fired one coach and hired another less than two weeks into the season; the Clippers have committed themselves to Del Negro. The Lakers are below .500; the Clippers have a three-game winning streak going. The Lakers make headlines for their in-house drama; the Clippers keep their attention focused on the court.
It hasn’t always been like this, but for now the Clippers can revel in their place and not worry about what team they’re playing or what the latest developments are with the Lakers. With the Heat in town, they have another chance to measure themselves against an elite opponent.
“They’re the defending champs, so I don’t see why not,” guard Chris Paul said. “But at the same time, we’re in a pretty good position right now in that it’s more about us and not other teams. We’re good enough to play our game and beat whoever.”
That’s a kind of swagger the Clippers haven’t shown before, primarily because they haven’t been good enough. But in their first seven games, they’ve beaten the Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs, Atlanta Hawks and Lakers — all playoff teams last season — and have a belief they can beat any opponent if they play at their pace.
“We’ve just got to come in and play our game,” Paul said. “We’ve shown we’re capable enough to beat good teams, but we’ve got to play the right way.”
Miami, with its deep lineup and the addition of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, looks as imposing as it did last season when it won the NBA title. LeBron James is working on a streak of five games with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds, Chris Bosh is averaging 20.9 points, and Dwyane Wade is coming off a 19-point, seven-assist game against the Houston Rockets on Monday night. James had 38 points in that game, including eight in the final five minutes.
The Heat lead the league in scoring average (105.5 points per game) and field-goal percentage (49.7), so the Clippers know that effective defense will be critical. It’s one area they continue to work on.
“With LeBron and Wade and Chris, you’ve got three of the top players, and everyone else feeds off that,” Del Negro said. “Then they have Rashard and Ray and guys that know how to play, like ( Shane) Battier and ( Mike) Miller. They’re deep. They’re champions for a reason.
“There’s nothing they haven’t seen, so we’ve got to be solid with our approach.”
They also don’t need to worry about the Lakers, who are still looking to find their direction. Being the other team in town seems fine. It’s still early.
“It doesn’t really matter,” Paul said when it was suggested the Clippers are being overlooked. “We only have seven games to choose from. Nothing really starts until later in the season when you’ve got 50 or 60 games under your belt and you can really see a team’s body of work. No team really knows who they are right now.”
Maybe not, but the Clippers are getting close.
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