Clippers return home to face Heat

Tied for the top spot in the NBA’s Western Conference as recently as Wednesday afternoon, the Los Angeles Clippers will take the floor Saturday for their first home game in 10 days, still wanting more from their impressive season.

When the Clippers face the Miami Heat at Staples Center on Saturday night they will be coming off a 2-2 road trip against teams currently .500 or better. But where that once might have been reason for satisfaction, these Clippers have a conflicted feeling about their recent run of play.

“I was hoping for more,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said after a 96-86 defeat to the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday. “If you look at the big picture you will take a .500 road trip, but you want better. I think as a team we have to expect better.”

Playing in their second game on a mammoth six-game road trip, the Heat hope they will not be looking back at the journey thinking about what could have been. Miami opened the trip Thursday night at Phoenix with a 115-98 victory over the Suns.

The road is not as frightening a place for the Heat as it might be for others. Miami is now 5-5 away from home. In fact, just about anywhere on the East Coast is bad news for the Heat, which is 5-9 at home, 5-12 against the Eastern Conference and just 1-7 against the Southeast Division.

When the Heat left on their longest road trip of the season, there were concerns about a defense that could not hold a lead Tuesday against the Orlando Magic, giving up 59 second-half points in a 105-90 defeat.

There was also a perceived lack of urgency on offense as a passive Heat went to the free-throw line just five times, the second lowest total in team history. The two made free throws were tied for the lowest in team history.

“The biggest thing in this league is that you have to know what is successful for you,” Heat veteran Dwyane Wade said this week. “You’ve got to know what works for you. I think we’ve seen it in the wins, the good wins that we’ve had. And I think we’ve seen the opposite in the losses. So how can we get to more consistency?”

It was better in Friday’s victory at Phoenix, but on Tuesday, the Heat’s response for a 50-point first half and four-point lead was a 12-point third quarter against the Magic, the lowest scoring quarter all season.

It does not bode well for the Heat that they are playing the second night of back-to-back games and are up against a defensive-minded team like the Clippers. Los Angeles has held its opponents to 44.1 field goal percentage, fourth best in the NBA.

The Heat hold their opponents to a 44.6 field goal percentage, eighth best in the NBA, but will be challenged by a Clippers team that scores 116.4 points per game, fourth best in the league.