LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Clippers want to be an elite team but to do that they must start to beat elite teams.
As “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair used to say, “If you want to be the man, you have to beat the man.”
So far this season, the Clippers have beaten a lot of teams but are just 2-7 against the top five teams in the league after Wednesday’s 116-112 loss to the Miami Heat.
The Clippers are also 0-4 against the Heat and the Pacers this season and 0-5 against the league’s elite on the road.
Wednesday’s loss, coming back from 19 down to nearly tie the game in the fourth quarter without Chris Paul and J.J. Redick, was admirable. But admirable efforts and moral wins don’t mean much to a team trying to be elite.
How it happened: After the Clippers scored the opening basket of the game, the Heat took a 12-point lead in the first quarter and never looked back. They increased their lead to 19 points in the second quarter and controlled the game for much of the night before the Clippers stormed back in the fourth quarter, going on a 10-0 run and coming within two points. However, the Clippers could never tie the game or take the lead.
What it means: Beating the Heat is going to be hard when the Clippers are at full strength. Trying to beat them without Paul and Redick to end a grueling 19-day stretch during which they have played 12 games in 10 cities is a thankless task. Nevertheless, elite teams find ways to beat elite teams.
Hits: Blake Griffin was all over the court and above the rim, finishing with 43 points and 15 rebounds. Jamal Crawford added 31 points and 6 assists while DeAndre Jordan had 16 points and 16 rebounds. All but eight of the Clippers’ 112 points on Wednesday came from Griffin, Jordan, Crawford and Matt Barnes (12 points).
Misses: The Clippers got absolutely nothing from their bench against the Heat. Jared Dudley was 1-for-5 and missed all of his 3-point tries and finished with three points. Willie Green missed his one attempt and finished with two points. That was about it. No one else on the Clippers' bench scored. Meanwhile, the Heat got 27 points from their second team.
Stat of the game: After having some success with the deep ball, the Clippers struggled from beyond the arc on Wednesday. They finished just 7-of-25 for 28 percent.
Up next: The Clippers will finally be able to stay home after playing a game at Staples Center, and may even get in a practice on Thursday before playing the Toronto Raptors on Friday. The Clippers beat the Raptors in Toronto in their first meeting of the season, 126-118, as Terrence Ross scored 51 points.