Surging Clippers host Heat Wed. night
Chris Paul feels the Los Angeles Clippers' surge without Blake Griffin is just a bonus until their leading scorer returns from injury.
After all, it's not as if the Clippers are beating up on the best teams in the league during their nine-game winning streak.
Los Angeles faces its first .500 team of the run when the Miami Heat visit Staples Center looking to win for the fifth time in six meetings Wednesday night.
Griffin has missed the last eight with a partially torn quadriceps tendon that likely will keep him out at least another week, but the Clippers (25-13) have gotten by just fine without him so far.
Paul has increased his scoring average from 16.8 through his first 23 to 21.1 over his last 10 and finished with 25 for the second straight game in Sunday's 114-111 overtime win over a New Orleans team missing Anthony Davis.
Paul also added 11 assists to help Los Angeles earn its fourth winning streak of at least nine games over the last four seasons. The Clippers are 20-8 when Griffin sits out in his career, not counting when he missed the entire first season because of injury after being drafted No. 1 overall in 2009.
That doesn't mean they aren't missing him this time around, though. The Clippers have won four times by six points or fewer during their streak despite every opponent currently sitting below the .500 mark.
"We're happy that we're winning games, and we want to continue to try to keep winning and build up the team as much as possible. But this is not our team until 32 gets back," Paul said.
"When you lose somebody as important as Blake, everybody knew they had to step up. A lot of times we just throw it to him and watch him go to work, and now we're having to do a lot more. But our defense has come together, and we just keep trying to hold it down until he gets back."
The Heat (22-16) didn't have much trouble beating the Clippers with Griffin in the last meeting, getting 34 points from Chris Bosh and 17 and 10 assists from Dwyane Wade in a 104-90 road win Jan. 11, 2015.
Hassan Whiteside finished with 23 points and 16 rebounds, but his availability for this contest is unclear. Whiteside sat out Monday's 111-103 loss to Golden State with a right knee injury after being listed as a game-time decision, and as of now has that same status for this matchup.
Justise Winslow made the first start of his career in Whiteside's place and finished with seven points, but he wasn't a match for Whiteside's inside presence.
Wade had 20 points and 11 assists, while Bosh finished with 15 and 12 rebounds.
Miami has dropped three of four overall and is 1-2 on a six-game trip that ends Sunday against Oklahoma City. Wade played through a strained left shoulder that he suffered in Friday's loss to Utah and had it wrapped in ice after the game.
"You've just got to fight and give your team whatever you have," said Wade, who is 9 for 37 from the field over the last two and shooting what would be a career-low 45.2 percent on the season. "Everyone in this locker room is going through something. I just try to battle, get some rest and go on to the next one."