Clippers beat Miami in Shanghai
The Los Angeles Clippers used a dominant inside attack to dispatch reigning NBA champion Miami Heat 99-89 in an exhibition match on Sunday in front of a sell-out crowd of 18,000 in Shanghai.
With All Star point guard Chris Paul guiding the offence, Clippers big men Eddie Jordan and Blake Griffin thrilled the crowd with dunks and alley-oop baskets as Los Angeles jumped to a first-quarter double-digit lead and maintained it for much of the match.
Jordan scored 13 of his game-high 18 points in the first quarter, while power forward Griffin scored 13 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as the Clippers avenged a 94-80 loss to Miami in Beijing on Thursday.
“We played with a lot more enthusiasm tonight ... when you do that, better things happen,” Clipper coach Vinny Del Negro said.
“Blake is a huge focal point and a lot of the offense will run through him.”
With Los Angeles leading 84-67 at the end of the third quarter, both coaches chose to sit their top players.
A 12-0 run by Miami midway through the fourth quarter cut the lead to 93-87, but was too little too late.
Miami was led by forward Rodney Carney with 15 points, while reigning NBA most-valuable-player LeBron James scored 11 points despite featuring sparingly.
“We know as defending champions, it’s going to be hard to repeat,” said Heat star guard Dwyane Wade, who only played eight first-quarter minutes, scoring seven points.
“We accept and love competition. It’s going to be one of the best years the NBA has had,” he said of the upcoming season, with numerous teams, including the Clippers, loading up on star power to challenge the Heat.
Basketball is arguably the most popular sport in China and is the NBA’s biggest market outside the United States.
“We believe the future of basketball in China is very, very bright,” NBA commissioner David Stern told reporters ahead of the match.
“This is a market that is very important... we believe it has enormous potential.”
The pair of games marked the sixth time that the NBA has held preseason matches in China.
Stern announced the NBA would participate in an annual summer game with the charity foundation of former NBA superstar Yao Ming, who retired last year after a nine-year NBA career.
Yao, who sat courtside, has had a huge impact on the game’s popularity in the world’s most populous nation. His retirement has apparently had little impact on China’s love affair with the game.
The popularity of the sport has also grown as a growing number of former NBA stars finish their careers in China, including one-time New York Knick Stephon Marbury, who won a Chinese Basketball Association championship with the Beijing Ducks last season.
On Wednesday, seven-time NBA all-star Tracy McGrady, who once teamed with Yao in Houston, announced he will play for the CBA’s Qingdao Eagles during the coming season.