Doc Rivers' second season leading the Los Angeles Clippers came with championship expectations, but so far it's only resulted in frustration. Rivers has wondered about his team's fight and called them out for being physically assaulted at times. A 114-90 blowout against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday should give his team hope that change is around the corner.
Los Angeles (6-4) plays its second outing of a seven-game road trip on Thursday night against the Miami Heat, and it will aim to carry over a strong defensive performance in Orlando.
Miami has dealt with the opposite problems in its 6-5 start to the season. While the defense has been strong at points, the Heat are still finding their way without LeBron James leading the way. It hurts on Thursday that coach Erik Spoelstra won't have Dwyane Wade, who is dealing with a hamstring strain. The good news comes courtesy of the The Sun Sentinel, which reports that both Luol Deng and Josh McRoberts are expected to play despite dealing with less serious injuries.
The main course
Clippers vs. Heat, 8 p.m. ET
Miami doesn't run out the most intimidating bench unit, which will make its matchup against the Clippers interesting. Los Angeles has relied heavily on Jamal Crawford's scoring over the last few games, and he's been deadly with his efficiency -- Crawford went 8-for-12 from the field for 22 points against the Magic. The Heat will need some punch from rookie point guard Shabazz Napier and swingman James Ennis to keep pace with a high-octane offense.
This game would have been the hot ticket for the Thursday night schedule had injuries not been a part of it. A strained hamstring will again keep Bulls point guard Derrick Rose out of action and Pau Gasol will also sit on the bench with a calf strain, according to the Chicago Tribune. Nonetheless, the Bulls should be a test for a Sacramento Kings team trying to cement itself as a serious threat out West. The matchup between Joakim Noah and DeMarcus Cousins is a perfect sell to a national audience.