MIAMI — The Los Angeles Clippers, who left home earlier this week with a mediocre 5-4 record, might be starting to find their game.
That was certainly the case on Thursday night when point guard Chris Paul had 26 points and a game-high 12 assists to help the Clippers dominate the Miami Heat 110-93 at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Miami trailed by 24 points early, which set the franchise record for the largest first-quarter deficit ever in a home game. After that, Miami never got closer than 14 points.
“The way we played tonight in the first quarter — I don’t care who we played, it would’ve been hard to play us,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “We’re finding our way. I like where we’re headed.”
Los Angeles (7-4), off to a 2-0 start on its seven-game trip, also got 26 points from forward Blake Griffin. Center DeAndre Jordan contributed 12 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
The Clippers shot 55.6 percent from the floor, including 13 of 31 on three-pointers (41.9 percent). They had 31 assists and just 13 turnovers compared with 11 assists and 12 turnovers by the Heat.
“There’s not a whole lot to say — that was a blitz in that first quarter,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They knocked us on our heels, and we could never get our footing after that.”
Rivers said his team’s success can be attributed to proper spacing on the court and a willingness to share the ball.
He pointed to guard Jamal Crawford, who leads the NBA in bench scoring (18.4) and is normally a pass-first player. On Thursday, though, Crawford had no points and five assists at halftime.
“You guys should get the stat sheet and get him to sign it,” Rivers joked. “When I looked at the stat sheet at halftime, I thought, ‘Wow, this is unusual and very nice.'”
Rivers said Crawford, who finished with five points and a season-high nine assists, was thrilled with his passing totals. But Rivers doesn’t want Crawford to forget about his scoring.
“I thought (Crawford) started looking for assists down the stretch,” Rivers said. “I said, ‘OK, Magic (Johnson)’ … We need him to be aggressive all the time.”
Crawford said the Clippers are building trust with each other.
“I think when you pass up good shots for great shots, you give yourself a good chance to make those,” he said.
Miami (6-6) lost for the fourth time in its past five games.
Forward Chris Bosh led the Heat with a game-high 28 points, including 18 in the first half. Shooting guard Mario Chalmers, who had led the Heat in scoring the past three games while replacing injured starter Dwyane Wade, was held to 13 points.
Heat starting point guard Norris Cole was scoreless in 10 minutes. He dislocated his left middle finger in the second quarter and did not return.
Cole has been a very durable player. On Thursday, he played his 160th consecutive game, which ranks third best in franchise history behind former standouts Grant Long (161) and Glen Rice (174).
“Right now, we’re just being safe,” Cole said of his injury. “We’ll see how it feels tomorrow.”
Rookie Shabazz Napier, Cole’s backup, had a season-high 17 points and three assists in 32 minutes.
Early in the game, it was all Clippers. Los Angeles shot 68 percent from the field in the first quarter, including 62.5 percent on 3-pointers (5 of 8), and held Miami to 36.8 percent from the floor. Miami missed all five of its 3-pointers.
Given those numbers, and a 12-4 rebounding edge, the result was predictable: a 39-15 Clippers lead.
The Clippers had their lead cut to 58-40 at halftime. Still, Los Angeles got a variety of dunks and layups, outscoring Miami 30-14 in the lane in the first half. Ten of those points came on lobs.
“We want to make high-energy plays,” Crawford said. “The lob is a weapon for us.”
NOTES: The Heat, who hadn’t played since Monday, were the more rested team. But the Clippers got to rest their starters in the fourth quarter of a 114-90 win over the Orlando Magic on Wednesday. … Heat G Dwyane Wade (hamstring) missed his fourth straight game. Before he got hurt, he averaged 19.6 points and 6.4 assists. The last time he had a season in which he averaged more assists was 2009-2010 (6.5). … Heat Fs Luol Deng (wrist) and Josh McRoberts (foot) returned from injuries after missing two and three games, respectively. … Up next, the Heat play at the Orlando Magic on Saturday. … The Clippers’ seven-game trip continues with their third stop on Sunday at the Memphis Grizzlies.
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