Preview: Heat host Clippers looking to climb back above .500
TV: FOX Sports Sun
TIME: Pregame coverage begins at 7:30 p.m.
MIAMI — Coach Erik Spoelstra doesn’t want to pass his mentor Pat Riley, but that’s what now seems inevitable.
Spoelstra won his 454th career game on Friday night when his Miami Heat held on to defeat the Charlotte Hornets 104-98.
On Saturday night at American Airlines Arena, the Heat (14-14) faces the visiting Los Angeles Clippers (11-16). With a win, Spoelstra would pass Riley on the Heat career win list.
“That would seem like a misprint to me,” Spoelstra said of passing Riley on the wins list. “Pat has meant everything to me as a coach and a mentor. I want to win (Saturday) night, but I don’t want to pass Coach Riley in wins.
“We all think of him as the guy who should have all the records. He’s the one who built this, along with (owner) Mickey (Arison). … I am humbled.”
The Heat would seem to have a good shot of beating the Clippers, who lost to the Washington Wizards 100-91 on Friday night.
Los Angeles is just 5-9 on the road this season. In addition, the Clippers are 0-8 in road games in which they enter the fourth quarter trailing as was the case on Friday.
The Clippers are without guard Austin Rivers, who has a concussion, and star forward Blake Griffin, who has a knee injury. Guard Patrick Beverley (knee) is out for the season, and forward Danilo Gallinari (buttocks) has missed three straight game.
Clippers guard Milos Teodosic is still not all the way back from a plantar fascia injury, and he missed Friday’s game.
“It’s been that type of season,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers told the Los Angeles Daily News when asked about injuries.
Without all that firepower, the Clippers’ main threats are center DeAndre Jordan and guard Lou Williams.
Jordan, a two-time NBA rebounding champion, is averaging 10.9 points, 14.6 boards and 1.2 blocks.
Williams, who could be a candidate for NBA Sixth Man of the Year, is averaging 20.0 points and 4.8 assists.
As for the Heat, they are dealing with two key injuries of their own. Center Hassan Whiteside, who has led the league in rebounds and blocked shots, is out with a knee injury and likely won’t be back until the end of the month at the earliest.
Heat forward Justise Winslow (knee) has missed the past six quarters and is questionable to return against the Clippers.
In their absence, the Heat has received balanced scoring. On Friday, seven Heat players scored in double-figures.
Miami’s leading scorers on Friday were a pair of reserve guards — Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington.
Johnson, who missed the previous game due to a migraine headache, was highly efficient, making 5-of-6 shots from the floor, including 4-of-4 on three-pointers. He was also 2-of-2 from the foul line.
Missing Miami’s 102-95 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers bothered Johnson, who was not healthy enough to participate.
“It’s hard to explain to other people, but when you are going through (a migraine), you have to weather that storm, and you will be good later,” Johnson said. “It’s frustrating because I wanted to be out there to help my team and my brothers.”
There is one other thing that bothers Johnson and his teammates and staff: Miami’s 5-7 home record.
“We were just talking about that,” Johnson said when asked why Miami is 9-7 on the road but struggles at home. “Most of our activity efforts — the games where we had the most deflections and were flying around — were all on the road.
“It’s something we have to figure out because if we are going to make it to the playoffs, we have to hold down home court. We owe that same type of (road) effort to our fans (at home).”