The Miami Heat beat the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night, 116-112, in a game that rewarded those of us who stayed up past our bedtimes on the East Coast by producing a metric ton of exciting, dynamic basketball, even without the injured L.A. backcourt of Chris Paul and J.J. Redick. From each team's first possessions — a nice duck-in, drop-step and lefty finish by Blake Griffin, followed by a strong baseline drive away from a Chris Bosh pick for an athletic layup by Dwyane Wade — both the Clips and Heat seemed ready for a high-level contest packed with highlights. The ensuing 48 minutes — marked by sensational performances from Griffin, who scored a season-high 43 points to go with 15 rebounds and six assists, and LeBron James, who kicked in 31 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists and three steals — didn't disappoint, producing so many jaw-dropping plays that it was tough to keep track.
So let's pore back over some of the more memorable moments and play a quick game of This or That? to revisit and compare said fun moments, with me saying which one I like best, followed shortly thereafter by you disagreeing. Sound good? Andiamo, y'all:
DOPE LONG-DISTANCE ALLEY-OOPS
THIS: Jamal Crawford throwing a one-step-past-half-court lob that Griffin catches and puts in for a reverse layup:
THAT: Wade's at-half-court 'oop to James for a major two-hand flush:
THE OTHER: Crawford's long-range loft for a reverse slam by DeAndre Jordan:
THE OTHER OTHER: Crawford's two-dribbles-past-the-timeline feed for Griffin, who has just reverse-spun in the post to dust LeBron on his way to the rim:
Devine's Verdict: The Other Other. First of all, the amount of alley-oops in this game was flat-out ridiculous. In addition to these 35-plus-foot jobs, there were also a ton of quick-hitting interior lobs, with the likes of Griffin and Matt Barnes taking advantage of penetration forcing Miami rotations to feed Jordan for some big slams, and James doing the same on the other end to get Chris Andersen some easy buckets. It's very easy to say that all a certain player does is dunk and intend it as a pejorative, but the goal of an offense is to create as many high-percentage looks as possible, which isn't easy against good defenses; the way the Clippers and Heat went about attacking one another vertically, not only in transition but also in half-court sets that broke down the opposition with sharp execution, accomplished that high-percentage goal early, often and forcefully.
These ones, though, were all remarkable, not least of which because of how the players involved make a number of very difficult things seem very easy. My favorite, though, is Griffin taking advantage of a moment of LeBron sleeping to spin, soar and slam.
At first blush, it's just another big loud Blake dunk, but it's also a little bit of insight into the sorts of things that make him special — improved awareness in the post, the quickness to take advantage of a moment of weakness and leave even another elite athlete in the lurch, and the reality that just about any possession that puts him within leaping distance of the basket has a better than good chance of resulting in points for the offense. That he pulled this hiccup-quick move and finish in the midst of marshaling a fourth-quarter comeback that brought the Clips within four points of a Heat team that had led by as many as 17 late in the third quarter made it all the more impressive.
DOPE NONSENSE BUZZER-BEATERS BY EXTRAORDINARILY CONFIDENT GUARDS
THIS: Mario Chalmers draining a bailout 30-footer during a first quarter in which basically everything was going in for Miami:
THAT: Crawford's high-arcing rainbow of a leaning 29-footer with 0.3 seconds left in the first half to cut the Clippers' halftime deficit to seven:
Devine's Verdict: That. With all due respect to the "front-end of the top-10" confidence that allows Chalmers to thrive despite often serving as the Heat's whipping boy, there's just something so exhilarating about Crawford not only putting up, but making, shots that seem to have more in common with the AND1 Mixtape Tour than precision NBA. Crawford's 5 for 9 from beyond 30 feet out this season, according to NBA.com's stat tool, and if he'd just leaned back a bit further here, he'd have been 6 for 10. Alas.
Crawford, by the way, not only threw lobs and hit freak buzzer-beaters, but also carried a major offensive load for the Clippers with Paul and Redick sidelined. He finished with 31 points on 21 shots, a 5 for 11 mark from 3-point range, and a perfect 8 for 8 from the free-throw line, to go with six assists, three steals and three rebounds in a game-high 46 minutes and 38 seconds of work.
DOPE GIGANTIC MIAMI HEAT BLOCKS
THIS: LeBron tracing and erasing a Darren Collison layup with a trademark chasedown block:
THAT: "The Birdman" staring down the barrel of a titanic Blake alley-oop and turning it aside:
Devine's Verdict: That. Sorry, LeBron, but this one's no contest.
We've established that it takes a certain level of bravery and commitment to rim-protection to decide to step up, contest a Blake dunk attempt and hope to avoid becoming the next Timofey Mozgov, Kendrick Perkins, Pau Gasol, Serge Ibaka or Kris Humphries. Birdman not only did that, but he actually got all ball and prevented the bucket, turning in one of the coolest-looking blocks of the year:
It was the highlight of a strong performance by Andersen, who finished with 12 points, seven boards and a pair of blocks in 26 1/2 minutes off the bench for Erik Spoelstra.
LEBRON JAMES' TOMAHAWK DUNK AND THE DAMAGE DONE
THIS: The dunk:
THAT: The reaction to said dunk by Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons, who caught a glimpse of it during an interview after a win over the Phoenix Suns:
— ClutchFans (@clutchfans) February 6, 2014
At least, that's what I think. Let's hear your This or That? choices, whether in the comments or in one of the multiple social options below.
- - - - - - -