Heat clamp down on Clippers, Paul

Walter Villa, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

MIAMI -- Trying to stop Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul is like trying to "corral a spinning top," Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Somehow, though, the Heat kept Paul from spinning out of control while their own star guard, Dwyane Wade, was rolling all night long.
The result was a season-high 29 points for Wade, a season-low 11 points for Paul and a 102-97 Heat victory Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Wade made 13 of 22 shots and also had seven assists, although he committed a game-high seven turnovers. Still, it was the first time this season that Wade led the Heat in scoring.
Heat forward LeBron James had 18 points, six assists and five rebounds as Miami improved its home record to 3-0. The Heat (4-2) earned its fifth win in a row against the Clippers in their meetings in Miami.
The Clippers (3-3) were frustrated by the Heat's defense while falling to 1-3 on the road this season.
"When we put our minds to it, we are a very good defensive team," Heat forward Chris Bosh said. "CP (Paul) doesn't make it easy. He's the best point guard in the league for a reason. He's very crafty with the ball, and we have a very tough time corralling him.
"He gets in the paint, he has shots, he gives them lobs -- he really gets their machine going. But I think in the second half, we did a much better job of limiting his ability to create for his team."
The stats bear out Bosh's point. In the first half, the Clippers scored 56 points, shot 56 percent and had a four-point lead at the break. Paul had nine of his game-high 12 assists in the first half.
Things started to change in the third quarter, when Paul was held without an assist and was forced into two turnovers. As a result, the Clippers' high-powered offense, which was ranked No. 1 in the NBA in points scored entering Thursday, bogged down.
Los Angeles went cold in the third, scoring just 17 points on 37.5 percent shooting.
The Heat went up 76-73 after three periods, and they did it by clamping down defensively. A good example of that was Heat forward Shane Battier, who drew charging calls on two consecutive plays.
Meanwhile, Wade was aggressive throughout the game, which must be a surprise to all the critics who say the guard is on the decline.
"He's coming off his most efficient year ever, and he played injured throughout the playoffs," Spoelstra said. "Yet everyone said he was done -- go figure."
Spoelstra said his team's effort in the second half was much improved.
"We tried to be aggressive (with Paul), but that's easier said than done," he said. "He's a brilliant playmaker and reads the whole court."
The Clippers were led by forward Blake Griffin, who had 27 points and 14 rebounds. Center DeAndre Jordan also had a double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds.
"Blake was terrific," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "He did everything. He rebounded, and he defended (James) the best of all our guys. Blake made the call and said: 'I'll take LeBron.'"
As for Paul, Rivers said his guard was "defiant," wanting to beat the Heat's traps by himself.
"That's a lesson learned for all of us," Rivers said. "We told him before the game that at some point the Heat was going to try to blitz him. He needed to swing the ball to the other side and trust. He'll be better. I'm not worried about him."
Paul took responsibility for his play with his postgame comments.
"It was tough when they were trapping me all game," said Paul, who made five turnovers. "I made some bad decisions. I have to trust my teammates, get the ball out of my hands and not do as much. That's on me."
NOTES: Clippers PG Chris Paul entered Thursday leading the NBA in assists (12.6). He was also sixth in scoring (24.8). ... The Clippers and Heat split two games last season. ... F Chris Bosh returned to action after missing the Heat's previous game to be with his wife for the birth of their daughter. ... Clippers F Matt Barnes missed his second consecutive game because of a bruised right thigh. ... The Clippers' three-game road trip ends Saturday when they play the Rockets in Houston. ... Miami's four-game homestand hits the halfway point on Saturday with a visit from the Boston Celtics.

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