Miami and the Los Angeles Clippers were two of the worst teams in the league last season, but a healthy Dwyane Wade has the Heat quickly forgetting about those struggles. The Clippers, meanwhile, are still at the bottom of the standings.
Wade looks to build off his best game of the season and lead Miami to its second straight victory on Saturday when it visits Los Angeles, which tries to avoid dropping its fifth straight game.
Wade missed 31 games last season due to various injuries, and the Heat (8-8) could not overcome his absence, as they finished with the league’s worst record (15-67).
This year has been another story, though, as Wade has played in all 16 games, and leads the league in scoring with 28.4 points per game.
The Heat are already more than halfway to last season’s win total, and are one victory away from notching their ninth win - a mark they didn’t get to until Jan. 26 last season.
Miami got back to .500 with Friday’s 107-92 win over Phoenix, as Wade had a season-high 43 points on 15-of-24 shooting.
Wade, who had a season-low 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting in the Heat’s humiliating 106-68 loss to Portland on Wednesday, scored 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting in the first half Friday.
“I was on a mission to bounce back from my last game,” Wade said. “My shot was there and I just wanted to focus tonight. I focused all the way through tonight.”
Wade has topped 38 points in three of his last five games, and he’ll look to keep it going against a team he’s had little trouble against.
Wade, who missed Miami’s 99-98 loss to the Clippers (2-13) on March 10 because of a left knee injury, scored 33 points and had 10 assists in the Heat’s 100-94 win over Los Angeles on Dec. 9. The four-time All-Star is averaging 30.2 points in five games against the Clippers since 2004-05—his third-highest scoring average against any opponent in that span.
Los Angeles was tied with New York for the fifth-worst record in the NBA last season (23-59), and things haven’t been any better this year, as it owns the league’s second-worst mark.
Despite all the Clippers’ troubles, they’ve managed to stay competitive lately.
Los Angeles lost for the seventh time in eight games with Wednesday’s 106-105 defeat to Denver, and four of the Clippers’ last five losses have been by three points or fewer.
“We’re just playing harder and we’re right there,” rookie Eric Gordon said. “I think it’s time to close out these games.”
Gordon made his second straight start on Wednesday, and scored 24 points in a career-high 42 minutes. Gordon has 49 points on 8-of-17 shooting from 3-point range in his last two games after averaging 5.2 points on 3-of-13 shooting from beyond the arc in his previous six.
Zach Randolph debuted for Los Angeles on Wednesday following last week’s trade that sent Cuttino Mobley and Tim Thomas to New York. Randolph missed seven of his first eight shots and finished 3-for-11 with season lows of seven points and four rebounds in 25 minutes.
“I didn’t know the plays, but I just didn’t play good. I didn’t play my game at all,” said Randolph, who averaged 20.5 points and 12.5 rebounds for the Knicks. “I’ve got to get my rhythm back.”
Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy missed Wednesday’s game to attend his father-in-law’s funeral, but is expected to be back for this contest.