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T.J. SIMERS

Clippers-Heat is simply a sit-and-enjoy-it affair

L.A. beats Miami and everyone at Staples Center celebrates.

January 12, 2011|T.J. Simers

It had the feel of a really big Clippers game.

Never typed that sentence before.

Since it was going to be one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, I thought I'd just sit back and take it all in.

It must be nice, said Clippers center Chris Kaman, to get a free ticket and just come to watch.

He would know better than anyone in the building.

When it came time for the Clippers to open their locker room to the media, the Clippers were hiding. I'd be afraid to play the Heat, too.

Blake Griffin made a brief appearance at his locker. The Times' Mark Heisler asked him if he had a minute, and Griffin walked away without comment.

I could understand if Heisler had asked whether it was true that Griffin was dating the mother of Matt Leinart's child. But Heisler is more into Xs and O's than Xs and Ys.

Don Mattingly showed up for the game. I guess he's a Heat fan; never seen him at a Clippers game before. Remind me later to tell Heisler what Mattingly does for a living.

The atmosphere here isn't anywhere near as electric when Brand, Maggette and Miles were entertaining folks a few years back. Griffin has brought the Clippers a ton of attention, but only a dozen wins so far. Tonight, though, they get L.A. center stage.

The Clippers take the court and there's barely a murmur in the building. The Heat takes the court two minutes later because it doesn't need as much practice, and the place is filled with loud boos.

The game begins, and the first shot is taken by Griffin. Maybe next time he'll hit something more than the backboard. I like his chances.

Carlos Arroyo scores four of the Heat's first five points. Yeah, that's who everyone came to see.

Baron Davis hits a three for the Clippers. This really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

A few minutes later he dishes to DeAndre Jordan for a dramatic dunk. Soon, Kaman might have to buy a ticket to get in the building.

Davis scores on a driving layup and turns it into a three-point play. Does this make Davis the most successful heart transplant patient to ever play basketball?

James makes no impact early on and I know what Mattingly is thinking: I could have stayed home and watched replays of Matt Kemp's season.

BULLETIN: Davis dunks on the Heat. All it took was a little encouragement from Donald Sterling.

Some random fan is on the court now trying to win $300 for hitting a three-point shot during a break in the game. The Clippers' announcer tells the crowd, "I kind of want to give you the money because you hit the rim." A few weeks ago Sterling would have signed him to take Davis' place.

The Clippers lead by 18 points in the first quarter, scoring 44 points against the Heat. And James is now on the bench. The Warriors are beating the Lakers by nine.

America's going to just love this year's Christmas Day dream game between the Clippers and Oklahoma City.

Why do people boo when James comes into the game? For many of them, the only reason they are here is to see him.

Clippers by 10 at the half, and if they hadn't been winning by 18 after the first quarter, this would be monumental. Now it's just scary.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas tries to remove Griffin's eye rather than allow him to drive to the basket in the third quarter. The Clippers get two free throws, the ball and a chance to put some distance between them and the Heat with the flagrant foul. But they get only one point. It seems like a high price for Griffin, the Cyclops, to pay.

The best player on the court right now is Wade, who has 22 points and plays the regular-season game as if it really matters who wins and loses. He could never play for the Lakers.

STOP THE GAME. Monster dunk for James. So this is what they are missing in Cleveland. Griffin's turn …

James throws up an air ball, and the people love it. People are so strange. Eric Gordon turns it into an aggressive basket the other way. The place starts to rock, but then they bring out the Clippers' Spirit, turn up the rap music and everyone is either sitting on their hands or covering their ears.

They show a few celebrities on the big screen. I ask Times beat writer Lisa Dillman if "that's Jessica Alba." She has no idea. My other choice is to ask Heisler. Never mind.

Eric Bledsoe stuffs James. YouTube stuff. There's lot of noise. Don't bring back the Clippers' Spirit.

Clippers by eight after three — that makes it a typical Clippers game so far. Clippers have Griffin on the floor, one trainer pulling his arms, the other his legs. Whatever it takes to make him taller.

James comes up limping, and on the same play Wade goes down injured. James continues hopping, gets the ball and hits a three-pointer. James is in agony on the bench and Wade may be out as well, and there goes the Heat's season. But on a bright note for Miami fans, the Heat is within two of the Clippers.

Both James and Wade check back into the game. The Lakers are still in trouble.

Griffin and Mario Chalmers get into a fracas, each drawing technical fouls. A moment later an agitated Griffin adds his signature dunk. Folks seem very excited.

Everyone on their feet now, the Clippers are going to win. Everyone is going bonkers. Steve Soboroff walks up and says he's been waiting 15 years for this. The Clippers have 13 wins.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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