Clippers-Heat Preview

Close games have been the norm recently for the Miami Heat, who
find themselves battling to stay in playoff position.

No team has had to sweat out anything lately against the Los
Angeles Clippers.

The Heat look to put a loss to a fellow Eastern Conference
playoff hopeful behind them Wednesday night when they open a
six-game homestand against the Clippers, who have dropped each of
their last four games by at least 17 points.

Twenty-one of Miami’s first 54 games were decided by 15 points
or more, but it seems routinely being involved in blowouts has
become a thing of the past for coach Erik Spoelstra’s club.

The Heat (32-32) have seen seven of their last 10 games decided
by six points or fewer. Miami won its first three games in March by
an average of 4.3 points to pull into seventh place in the East –
ahead of Charlotte and Chicago – but tripped up against one of its
pursuers Tuesday.

The Heat led by nine points with under nine minutes to play at
Charlotte but fell apart from there. The Bobcats closed the game on
a 20-6 run in the final 8:57 to beat Miami 83-78 and pull into a
tie for the East’s No. 7 seed.

Dwyane Wade had 27 points for the Heat, but only four after the
8:51 mark of the third quarter.

“That’s a tough one for us to handle, being in control most of
the game,” Spoelstra said. “We showed up ready for the fight and
we did not close the game well at all, certainly not
offensively.”

It was the first time in 21 games this season Miami lost when
holding an opponent under 90 points.

The Clippers (25-39) continued a five-game road trip Tuesday in
Orlando, and as if a 26-point halftime deficit wasn’t enough, the
team announced in the middle of the game it was relieving Mike
Dunleavy of his general manager duties.

The move comes barely a month after Dunleavy stepped down as
head coach after guiding the team to the playoffs once in six
seasons. Assistant general manager Neil Olshey will take over in
the front office.

“I thought Mike was going to focus on being the GM and that’s
what I thought was going to be the course of event. I’m a little
bit shocked it occurred,” interim coach Kim Hughes said.

The Magic went on to beat Los Angeles 113-87, meaning the
Clippers have been outscored by an average of 22.8 points in losing
four straight.

“It’s just like another monkey wrench in a roller-coaster season
for us,” guard Baron Davis said of the day’s events.

All-Star Chris Kaman had a tough night against Magic superstar
Dwight Howard on Tuesday, finishing with 12 points and six rebounds
while Howard had 22 points and 15 boards.

Kaman more than held his own earlier this season against the
Heat, though, posting 22 points and 14 rebounds in a 94-84 win at
Staples Center on Jan. 10.

Eric Gordon, who had 17 points in that win, has missed the first
two games of the Clippers’ five-game road trip with a sore left
leg. He’s listed as day-to-day.

Wade had 24 points versus Los Angeles in January but has
averaged 29.1 points and 8.1 assists in his past eight games in the
series.

He could use some help from Michael Beasley. The team’s
second-leading scorer with 15.4 points per game, Beasley has been
held four points below his average in Miami’s last eight games
while shooting 39.1 percent. However, he’s averaged 20.7 points in
three career games against the Clippers.

The Heat are 11-6 this season when Beasley scores more than 20
points.