Spoelstra hits milestone as Heat sink Clippers
MIAMI — Josh Richardson did exactly what Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra requested before Saturday’s 90-85 win against the Los Angeles Clippers at AmericanAirlines Arena.
He gave Heat fans what they were “owed.”
“We want to play well in front of our fans,” Spoelstra said. “We owe them.”
Spoelstra paid back mentor Pat Riley by passing him in the franchise record book with victory No. 455, the most ever for a Heat coach. Richardson settled the debt with a career-high 28 points. The Heat guard also swished a career-best six 3-point attempts.
“It was a retro, kind of an old-school Miami Heat game in honor of coach Riley,” Spoelstra said. “He probably enjoys (it) the most. You win shooting 37 percent. I think we scored too many points this game. But those are the old-school, tough, grind-it-out, find any way as a competitor to win the game. So that’s in honor of my mentor and my coach. ... He’s still my coach.”
Miami (15-14) fended off a tremendous effort from DeAndre Jordan. The star of a watered-down Clippers lineup scored 12 points and had 20 rebounds. Jordan has a season-best four consecutive double-doubles and seven double-doubles in his last eight starts.
“I had to just get us going,” Richardson said. “Things weren’t coming easy. The Clippers are a team that plays super hard. They are tough to play against. Things were tough for guys so I just had to take things into my own hands a little bit.”
Richardson helped curb a late Clippers rally. Los Angeles (11-17) did not have a lead in the contest until the 6:09 mark in the fourth quarter. Milos Teodosic netted a 3-pointer to earn a 77-75 advantage. Richardson drilled a 27-foot 3-pointer to give the Heat a slim edge with 3:37 remaining.
“(Richardson) stepped up big,” Spoelstra said. “That 3-pointer at the end, obviously it was deep. But very timely in the second half, he really had some tough bail-out baskets for us when we were struggling to score on that end.”
The Clippers snatched another lead with 1:50 remaining on a Lou Williams 3-pointer, but the Heat earned its final lead with Goran Dragic’s only points of the second half. Dragic hit an 11-foot jumper with 1:19 on the clock for an 86-85 lead.
Both teams shot 38.1 percent in the first quarter, but the Heat held a 24-17 advantage due to the Los Angeles’ early woes from 3-point range. Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell was scoreless in the first quarter but dominant in the second frame, shooting 6-for-7 from the field for 12 points.
“I just went in and did what I always do, play hard,” Harrell said. “I played with the same mindset that I always do and leave it all on the floor. Whatever happens, happens. I feel like my team responded well. We went on a big run that got us back into the game and that’s all I can ask for.”
The Heat clung to a 46-40 advantage at the break, despite being outscored 23-22 by the Clippers in the second quarter. The Clippers also outscored the Heat 25-23 in the third quarter, shooting 47 percent from the field.
Richardson was 8-of-9 from the field through three quarters, including six consecutive made attempts. Kelly Olynyk scored nine of his 11 points in the fourth quarter to keep the Heat alive. Dion Waiters had 13 points and six rebounds for Miami.
Harrell had 15 points, and Williams and Teodosic each had 13 points for the Clippers.
The Heat are better than .500 for the first time this month, while the Clippers dropped to 3-5 in December.
NOTES: The Heat pushed above .500 for the third time this season, after doing it just once before Dec. 16 last season. ... The Clippers beat the Heat 102-98 on the same date last season in Miami, improving their record to 20-7. ... Heat F James Johnson left the game in the first quarter with a right ankle injury. He did not return. ... Miami F Justise Winslow (left knee sprain) sat out Saturday but will travel with the team Sunday for its two game road trip against the Atlanta Hawks (Monday) and Boston Celtics (Wednesday). ... Heat C Hassan Whiteside (knee) missed his ninth straight game and will not travel with the team. ... Clippers G Danilo Gallinari (left knee) sat out for the third straight game. G Milos Teodosic (rest) returned after having the night off Friday. G Austin Rivers (concussion) was out.