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Feb 3, 2024 9:12 pm

Jimmy Butler, Heat out to cool off veteran-led Clippers

One of the reasons Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler is regarded as such a terrific team leader is his self-awareness.

Miami, which opens a four-game homestand Sunday against the Los Angeles Clippers, has won two straight after dropping seven consecutive contests — its longest skid since the 2007-08 season.

“We lost a (few) games maybe because I wasn’t as aggressive as I’m supposed to be,” Butler said. “We’ve talked about how that has to change.”

It’s interesting to note that Miami has nearly the same record at home (13-11) as on the road (13-12).

The Clippers, meanwhile, are outstanding on their home court (19-4) and just above .500 in road games (13-11).

It’s been a fruitful road trip for the Clippers, who have gone 4-1, including an impressive, 19-point win against the NBA-leading Boston Celtics. After facing the Heat, the Clippers close their road trip Monday at the Atlanta Hawks.

In star Paul George’s return from a one-game absence due to groin injury, the Clippers defeated the host Detroit Pistons 136-125 on Friday. George played 27 minutes, posting 18 points, seven assists, four rebounds, three steals and one block.

“He looked good,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “We were going to play him more, but we didn’t need him.”

The Clippers are a veteran team with four stars in George, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden and Russell Westbrook.

Leonard, who missed the 2021-22 season due to knee surgery, is leading the team in scoring (24.1). He is shooting career highs from the floor (53.0 percent) and on 3-pointers (45.0).

George, averaging 22.9 points, is shooting a career-best 90.9 percent on free throws and 41.2 percent on 3-pointers.

Harden is averaging 16.9 points and a team-high 8.5 assists while shooting a career-best 40.5 percent on 3-pointers.

Westbrook, a nine-time All-Star and the 2017 NBA MVP, is averaging 11.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.8 assists in a reserve role. Friday, he became the 25th player in NBA history with 25,000 points.

As for the Heat, Butler leads the team in scoring (21.5) and steals (1.2) while ranking second in assists (4.4) and fourth in rebounds (5.3).

Bam Adebayo leads the team in rebounds (10.6) and ranks third in scoring (20.5) and fourth in assists (4.1). He’s making 51.0 percent of his 2-point tries.

The Heat’s other big scorer is Tyler Herro, who ranks third in points (21.0) and assists (4.3).

Miami’s Duncan Robinson has been out due to a concussion, and that’s a big loss as he is averaging 13.2 points while shooting 40.4 percent on 3-point attempts.

Veteran guard Terry Rozier, acquired last month in a trade with Charlotte, and Rookie of the Year candidate Jaime Jaquez Jr. are the Heat’s other key players.

But, in terms of leadership, it all goes back to Butler.

“I feel like we hit our adversity,” Butler said of the losing streak. “We got through it and now it’s time to roll.”

–Field Level Media

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