Clippers-Heat Preview

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


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


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


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.