LOS ANGELES (CBSMiami/SportsDirect) – It's been a rough week for the Miami Heat.
With DeAndre Jordan missing his first game in almost five years, backup center Cole Aldrich treated it as just another day at the office.
"It was like any other game," Aldrich said matter-of-factly after the Los Angeles Clippers blitzed the Miami 104-90 Wednesday night at Staples Center. "Just go in there, play hard and try to find a way to get a win tonight."
The 6-foot-11 Aldrich, who started for Jordan, scored a season-high 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds, sparking the Clippers to their 10th consecutive victory.
Clippers point guard Chris Paul had 15 points, 12 assists and six rebounds. Forward Paul Pierce and guard Jamal Crawford scored 15 points apiece for Los Angeles, which beat a team currently with .500 or better record for the first time during the run. Pierce also collected nine rebounds. Reserve guard Pablo Prigioni had a career-high eight steals.
Los Angeles forward Blake Griffin missed his ninth contest with a partially torn left quad tendon, but Jordan's absence was a surprise before the game, when it was revealed he had pneumonia. It ended Jordan's NBA-best consecutive games streak at 360 and marked the first time he sat out since March 19, 2011.
Aldrich filled in with a solid performance.
"Cole is a guy that just stays ready," said Paul, who also had four of the Clippers' 18 steals (Miami managed five). "Whenever his number is called, he comes in and does whatever he has to do. Early in the game, I was on him to start rolling towards the basket more, but in the second half, he got going."
Aldrich made seven of 14 shots from the floor and five of seven foul shots. He had 13 points in the pivotal third quarter, when the Clippers seized control of the game.
"He had a tremendous effect on this game," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Guard Gerald Green scored 19 points to lead the Heat, who lost their third in a row. Guard Dwyane Wade finished with 16 points and eight rebounds, while forward Chris Bosh had 11 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists for Miami (22-17).
Heat guard Goran Dragic missed the contest with a calf injury.
Initially, Miami didn't seem to miss a beat without Dragic, leading by as much as 16 in the first half before Los Angeles cut the deficit to single digits.
A 9-3 run to close the half allowed the Clippers to pull within 52-45 at the break. Los Angeles (26-13) rallied despite shooting only 39.2 percent to 52.5 percent for the Heat. However, 11 turnovers by the Heat to only three for the Clippers in the first half didn't help their cause.
Overall, the Clippers shot 42.6 percent to 44.3 percent for Miami. Los Angeles canned 11 of 25 (44 percent) from 3-point range to nine of 24 (37.5 percent) for the Heat. Miami committed a season-high 24 miscues to eight for the Clippers.
"The first half, we had a lot of open looks that just did not fall," Aldrich said. "The second half, it just kind of came together. Our defense stepped up and only allowed 17 points in the third quarter, which was great for us defensively, and we had 34. We were able to come back from that seven-point deficit at the half."
The Clippers opened the third quarter with a 24-5 spurt, which included a 13-0 run, for a 69-57 advantage after an Aldrich hook shot with 6:11 left. Los Angeles led 79-69 heading into the final period.
A 10-2 run to kick off the fourth quarter blew the game open for the Clippers.
"That's about as bad a second half as you could play, and each one of us has to own that, starting with me," Spoelstra said. "It was just bad basketball in that third quarter."
Said Wade, "A lot of it was our offense. It wasn't flowing as it should have. Guys weren't screening for each other. I just felt in the third quarter they just turned it up a notch."
NOTES: Clippers C DeAndre Jordan was determined to play despite a case of pneumonia. Jordan texted Doc Rivers several times earlier Wednesday, assuring the coach he could play through the illness. "I can tell you he was doing everything he could to try to play in this game," Rivers said. "I thought even the thought of it was ludicrous, but not him." ... Clippers F Blake Griffin, who missed his ninth game with a torn left quad tendon, began running this week. There is no timetable for his return, though. ... The Heat are 11-5 against Western Conference clubs, the best mark by an Eastern Conference team. ... Miami resumes its six-game swing at Denver against the Nuggets on Friday. ... Los Angeles hosts the Sacramento Kings on Saturday.
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