LOS ANGELES -- Chris Paul was careful not to label this a measuring-stick game. While admitting that any game against the defending champion is a big game, he didn't want to make too much of the eighth game of the regular season.
The Los Angeles Clippers' goals this season go beyond big games in November, but it's hard to not see something greater while watching this Clippers team. It's hard not to see something sustainable that we'll be talking about well into the spring and summer. All the clichés of this being early in the season and taking it one game at a time are well and good, but it's impossible not to get caught up in the moment while watching this team play right now.
They've had some big wins this season against the Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs and Atlanta Hawks, but nothing was quite as impressive as their 107-100 win over the Miami Heat on Wednesday night.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
Griffin’s shot: There has been so much focus on Blake Griffin refining his game and developing a midrange shot that even President Obama chimed in on with his thoughts last year while talking to Paul. He told Paul to tell Griffin to shoot those wide-open 12- to 15-footers. "He's got a good stroke," the President said. "But he always looks like he's hesitating a little bit because he wants to go inside. And if he starts getting that shot like Karl Malone, he'll be unstoppable." Griffin isn't hitting that shot like Malone just yet, but against the Heat he showed glimpses of a player who could one day hit them consistently. He hit 4 of 6 shots from beyond 15 feet and looked comfortable each time he was left open outside the paint. He finished with 20 points, 14 rebounds and 6 assists in just 30 minutes.
Bench mob: The Clippers' second unit has been searching for a nickname since training camp started. Whatever the players end up calling themselves, it'll be safe to also call them the best in the NBA. The Clippers have been able to jump out to leads of at least 20 points in their past three games, against the Spurs, Blazers and Hawks, thanks to their bench, but few expected that to continue against the Heat. Well, it did. The Clippers' second unit, playing against Miami's "Big Three" of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, was able to jump out to 19-point lead and put the game away while Paul, Griffin and the rest of the Clippers' starters were on the bench. Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes finished with 40 points, which was just seven points off the Heat's "Big Three" total.
Clippers backcourt: The deepest area for the deepest team in the NBA is its backcourt, where the trio of Paul, Bledsoe and Crawford has been almost impossible to contain. Paul, who finished with 16 points and 10 assists, helped spark the Clippers’ comeback win by scoring the last 13 points of the third quarter and taking the Clippers from three points down to an 11-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. In the final period, the tandem of Crawford and Bledsoe took over. Bledsoe scored the Clippers' first 10 points in the fourth quarter before Crawford scored six straight of his own to put the game away while a smiling Paul watched most of it on the bench with the rest of the starters.