Los Angeles Clippers at Miami Heat (-6, 196)
It looks like a potential NBA Finals matchup on paper - and key players should be back in the fold on both sides of Friday's game between the Los Angeles Clippers and host Miami Heat. The Clippers were without superstars Blake Griffin and Chris Paul for Wednesday's 86-76 win over Orlando, though both practiced Thursday and hope to return. Miami is coming off a win over Houston that came without the services of Chris Bosh, who sat out due to illness but should be back Friday.
The Clippers will need all hands on deck if they hope to challenge the home dominance of the East-leading Heat. Miami is 20-3 on its home court this season, even with the Indiana Pacers for the best home mark in the conference. Improving that mark becomes more difficult if Paul returns from a knee injury that has knocked him out of 12 of the last 14 games. Griffin sat out Wednesday with a lingering hamstring injury, his second absence in a row after playing in the previous 197 straight games.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN, Prime Ticket (Los Angeles), Sun Sports (Miami)
ABOUT THE CLIPPERS (35-16, 28-23-0 ATS): Practice felt busier than ever Thursday, with Paul, Griffin, Chauncey Billups (left foot) and Jamal Crawford (right shoulder) all back in action. Griffin and Billups are listed as day-to-day and are expected to be in the lineup, while the statuses of Paul and Crawford remain up in the air. Billups, who has only played in three games this season, said he wants to see how he feels following Friday's shootaround before deciding on his status. "Hopefully I wake up [Friday] and I feel great and it's a go. But I have to wait and see how the recovery goes," he told the Los Angeles Times.
ABOUT THE HEAT (32-14, 22-24-0 ATS): After LeBron James finally won his first NBA championship last year, many wondered how he would respond in 2012-13. From a statistical standpoint, King James is as good as ever. While James is "only" fourth in league scoring at 26.8 points per game, he's shooting a career-best 55.6 percent from the field. He's also averaging a career-best 8.2 rebounds and a team-best seven assists while connecting on 40.8 percent of his 3-point attempts, also a career high. James scored his 5,000th point in a Miami uniform in Wednesday's win.
* Over is 7-1 in the last eight meetings in Miami.
* Home team is 13-3-1 ATS in the last 17 meetings.
* Over is 10-3 in the last 13 meetings.
* Clippers are 0-4 ATS in the last four meetings in Miami.
1. James' field-goal percentage has risen in seven straight seasons.
2. The Clippers have won six of the last nine meetings, with the home team prevailing in eight straight.
3. Miami is just 7-14 against teams above .500.