Five things: Shorthanded Clippers rally past Heat behind Aldrich, Prigioni

BY Jovan Buha • January 14, 2016

Missing the man in the middle

Jordan is the Clippers' most important defender, and it's not really close. There's simply no one else on the roster who can replace his combination of rim protection and rebounding, and the fact that he never misses games makes him even more valuable as the team isn't used to playing without him.

The Clippers felt the impact of his absence early, with the Heat pounding them on the glass, 31-19, and shooting 52.5 percent in the first half.

Los Angeles ramped up their energy in the second half, though, holding Miami to just 38 points on 33.3 percent shooting and outrebounding them 24-18. Despite the Heat's size advantage at multiple positions, the Clippers got away with playing only one big man -- or none at all -- as Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside weren't able to dominate and force the Clippers to adjust.

An unlikely duo

Cole Aldrich and Pablo Prigioni haven't even played in half of the Clippers' games this season, yet they've continued to find ways to be effective since entering the rotation on Dec. 21 against the Oklahoma City Thunder. 

On Wednesday -- when the Clippers needed their supporting cast to step up without two key starters -- both played their best games of the season, respectively. Aldrich collected season-highs in points (19 on 7-of-14 shooting), rebounds (7) and minutes (24), while Prigioni amassed a career-high 8 steals in just 15 minutes. Once Griffin returns and the rotation begins to actualize, it's become clear these two unlikely contributors should be ingrained in it. 

Shooting is here to stay?

Before the win streak, the Clippers had shot just 34.1 percent on 3-pointers this season, which ranked 19th in the league, according to Since then, the Clippers have been shooting 39.4 percent on 3s, which is the fifth-best mark in the league over that span. The recent uptick seemed to be the Clips regressing to the mean and making the open looks they should've been making all year.

But shooting is an unpredictable variable for most teams, and the Clippers returned to their pre-Christmas form in the first half, making just 4-of-14 3-pointers (28.6 percent). Yet it was a tale of two halves, as the Clippers shot 7-of-11 (63.6 percent) on 3s in the second half, burying the Heat from deep.

There's now enough of a sample size to suggest the Clippers' elite shooting could be a legitimate trend moving forward, regardless of an off-night here or there.

These things take time

There's no need to read too much into a home win in January, even if it brings a winning streak into double digits. But the overall vibe surrounding the Clippers has changed over the past month, and it's more than just the victories.

The Clippers' on-court body language has changed, and the second unit appears to understand each other's role and limitations much better than they did earlier in the season. If the team can keep the momentum going once Griffin is reacclimated, they should have the requisite firepower to contend with the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs and Thunder.

Passing their first test

One of the criticisms of the Clippers' win streak has been the competition they've faced. The Clippers had yet to beat a team above .500 during the span, making the Heat (22-17) their most challenging opponent to date. 

On a larger scale, the Clippers haven't shown up against playoff teams this season, putting up a 7-11 against current playoff teams in both conferences (and they haven't beaten a top-4 seed yet). It's too early to panic about that, but once you consider the fact that the Clippers were without Griffin and Jordan, this might be their most impressive win of the season.

Jovan Buha covers the NBA for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter @jovanbuha.

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