Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Kawhi Leonard and James Harden set the Heat’s house on fire in the Clippers’ win

Prodigy Jaime Jaquez Jr. hit the rookie wall. The long-range attack faltered. And the Heat were carved up by Kawhi Leonard and James Harden, enduring the 12th home loss of the season.

Josh Richardson started in Tyler Herro’s place due to a migraine, and Duncan Robinson was absent in concussion protocol.

Harden intercepted Terry Rozier’s outlet, quickly passing it to Russell Westbrook for a fastbreak dunk and tallied another fast feed to Leonard for a deuce. Yet, the hosts’ defense was mainly sharp, starting in man coverage- Jimmy Butler tagging Leonard and Haywood Highsmith guarding Paul George, but the zone was featured, too. In the frame, the Heat curbed the Clippers to 34.8% shooting and 19 points.

On offense, Bam Adebayo crushed the Clippers’ backline for a putback and took two trips to the line, not missing. And Jimmy Butler pierced the center for a layup and swished a right-corner triple. The rest of the team converted five of 13 tries.

In the second quarter, George was hounded by Highsmith and ineffective shooting from deep against the zone. However, his teammates bailed him out, deciphering the scheme with ball movement, resulting in six of 13 trifectas.

For the Heat, Adebayo registered a pick-and-pop floater and overpowered Terance Mann in the post for a dunk. Butler and Caleb Martin each added five points, but the unit made only 22.2% of attempted 3-pointers.

At halftime, the match was tied at 43. The Heat had 18 paint points, three on the break, four via second chances and 13 after turnovers. Adebayo was in charge with 10 on the scoring ledger, eight rebounds and two dimes. Butler was next with nine points on four of seven tries.

The Clippers scored 16 in the box, four on the break, six on extra tries and 11 after turnovers. Leonard was the high Clipper, tallying 11 points and five rebounds. Norman Powell’s seven followed. And Harden added five points and five assists.

Butler played all of the third quarter but was shut down. Harden and Mann denied him in transition; Harden forced him into an unsuccessful fadeaway on the baseline; And Leonard, as the low man in the zone, rejected his layup when he got by Powell on the right side and contested cleanly, causing a miss when Butler got it back.

Richardson kept the ember lit, canning a long two-pointer on the right side over George, plus making an open left-corner triple and two layups over Leonard.

For the guests, Leonard scored a putback, dunked on the break, swished a triple after a blitz and cracked the zone from the right wing. Harden set up his teammates four more times, plus dropped five points. The other Clippers made four of 11 baskets in the period.

The Heat entered the fourth quarter down 67-69. Butler rested to start the interval, but the group scored 37.5% of its ventures without him. In that stretch, the Clippers kept drawing contact on drives and jump shots, earning the bonus with over eight minutes left. Even this: Harden was fouled on a made 3-pointer.

Butler checked in with over eight minutes left and scored once when the Heat still had time. His other two field goals and free throw came after the club was behind nine points and out of reach. The other Heatles were extinguished for success on nine of 24 attempts.

In crunch time, the Beard splashed consecutive trays, isolating Butler on the left wing and going one-on-one with Rozier on the right side, getting fouled on that one, too.

The Heat lost 95-103, was beat on the glass by three and made 41.8% of shots. Its worst quarter was the last, putting up a 130.8 Defensive Rating and allowing 18 of the Clippers’ 22 hoisted free throws to come then.

On top of that, the Heat had 50 paint points, 15 on the break, six from extra tries and 19 after turnovers. Butler had 21 on the scoring ledger on 42% shooting.


Adebayo contributed 14 points and 13 rebounds. And the bench was outscored 24-31.

The Clippers registered 44.2% of attempts, with 30 paint points, six in the open court, eight on additional opportunities and 13 after turnovers.

Leonard had 25 points with 11 rebounds. Harden supplied 21 points, 11 dimes and eight boards.

At the postgame presser, coach Erik Spoelstra said, “The game really turned in the fourth quarter when we started fouling… We were just never able to really claw back into it. At that point, once we got down 10 [points], we would have needed to knock down some threes, get some relief baskets from there, but we weren’t able to do that. That was pretty much the story in the fourth [quarter].”

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