LeBron James and the rest of The Times' No. 1 Miami Heat are off to their… (Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images )
The Clippers believe they are a team on the rise and have developed the same swagger as many of the NBA's elite teams.
But when they face the NBA champion Miami Heat on Wednesday night at Staples Center, the Clippers say, they are looking forward to measuring themselves against the best team the league has to offer.
"They are the defending champs," Chris Paul said. "But at the same time, we're in a pretty good position right now in that it's more about us and not other teams. We're good enough to play our game and beat whoever."
The Clippers are 5-2 and feature All-Stars Paul and Blake Griffin, and they have one of the best benches in the NBA, led by shooting guard Jamal Crawford. They have beaten two good teams already, the Memphis Grizzlies and Lakers.
Meanwhile, the Heat have the Big Three of three-time most valuable player LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and they signed free agent Ray Allen in the summer.
Paul respects what the Heat has done.
"They are like San Antonio," Paul said. "They are a team that hasn't been together as long, but they've got a lot of veterans so they know how to play. They are not going to beat themselves."
The Clippers played the Heat twice in exhibition games in China in October. Both teams won a game.
"It helps being familiar with their team," Griffin said. "We only play them two times a year, so we kind of got a head start a little bit. I think it's good for us.
"I think the thing we learned from them is that even in the preseason, the way they ran their defense and ran their offense, it was very crisp and they were bang, bang, bang and on to the next play, on to the next rotations. I think we definitely kind of picked up on that and saw that and I think that helped us a little bit."
Crawford an All-Star?
When the All-Star balloting was announced Tuesday, Griffin and Paul were on the ballots, as expected.
The Clippers also had Chauncey Billups (still out recovering from left Achilles' tendon surgery) and Grant Hill (bone bruise in right knee) listed on the ballot, although neither has played this season.
But Crawford, who leads the Clippers in scoring at 20.3 points per game despite coming off the bench, wasn't on the ballot. Neither was Clippers center DeAndre Jordan.
"Not worried about being on the All-Star ballot," Crawford said on his Twitter account Tuesday, "as long as we win I'm good…if it's meant to be it will be."