While LeBron James and Dwyane Wade continue to guide the thriving Miami Heat, the Los Angeles Clippers’ start-studded roster has been depleted by injuries.
That could change Friday night.
Los Angeles hopes Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Jamal Crawford and Chauncey Billups each will be in the lineup as it continues its eight-game road trip against Miami.
The Heat (32-14) have won eight of their last 10 games, with James scoring at least 30 points in each contest during a three-game winning streak. He scored 32 in Wednesday’s 114-108 win over Houston, two nights after hitting 13 of 14 from the field in a 99-94 win over Charlotte.
Coach Erik Spoelstra said James can adjust to any defense, which is the main reason James is shooting a career-best 55.6 percent from the floor.
“He reads the game and does whatever’s needed,” Spoelstra said. “What you have is the most talented player in the league, a once-in-a-generation player. You add to that his basketball IQ, his work ethic. When you add all that together, you never know what the ceiling is. He may be able to keep on going, and we’ll need him to.”
Wade was equally as good Wednesday, scoring 31 points and making a key block on a James Harden 3-point attempt late in the game.
“Dwyane at his best can dominate at either end of the floor,” Spoelstra said. “Offensively, he’s really getting his legs and getting healthier. He’s been willing to put in more work than he ever has. That’s the type of dedication he’s put into this season.”
A lack of good health has been a major reason for the Clippers’ current slump.
Los Angeles (35-16) has dropped seven of 10 and three of five on its road trip despite Wednesday’s 86-76 win over Orlando. Paul has missed nine straight games with a bruised kneecap.
Griffin has sat out the last two with a strained hamstring and Crawford missed Wednesday’s contest with a sore right shoulder. Billups, who has played in only three games and none since Dec. 3, appears ready to return after suffering from tendinitis in his left foot.
All four players practiced Thursday and are listed as game-time decisions. It was the first time Paul and Billups practiced together in two months.
“It’s kind of weird to have everybody out there,” Griffin told the team’s official website. “It’s nice to have a full team.”
Coach Vinny Del Negro just isn’t sure if all of them will be on the floor together Friday. If not, he expects all four to be able to play Sunday versus New York.
“We’ve got to reevaluate everything (Friday) and see how everybody feels,” Del Negro said. “But it was good to have everybody out there.
“We’ll have a better idea after (Trainer) Jasen (Powell) meets with them and they get their therapy and we see how they are after the shootaround.”
Eric Bledsoe helped provide some relief for the injury-plagued Clippers, scoring a career-high 27 points in Wednesday’s win to help end a three-game losing streak.
Crawford scored a team-high 22 points off the bench, Griffin had 20 and 14 rebounds and Paul added 16 points and 10 assists in a 107-100 win over Miami on Nov. 14.
James finished with 30 points in that contest, but Wade and Chris Bosh, who could play Friday after sitting out Wednesday because of the flu, shot a combined 5 for 23 from the field. Wade finished with a season-low six points and five turnovers.