MIAMI (AP) -- For the Miami Heat, this may have been rock bottom.
On a day when coach Pat Riley deactivated two forwards whose
body fat readings aren't within team parameters, then began an
indefinite leave of absence because of knee and hip problems, the
defending NBA champions continued their free-fall.
"We caught a team that was really short-handed," Clippers
coach Mike Dunleavy said. "This was a game we were supposed to win
and our guys played well."
Jason Kapono had 19 points for Miami (13-18), which is five
games under .500 for the first time this season and opens a
six-game Western Conference road swing in Phoenix on Friday night.
Alonzo Mourning scored 16, as did rookie Robert Hite for the Heat,
who allowed the Clippers to shoot 61 percent.
"It wasn't a very good effort on our part," Heat interim coach
Ron Rothstein said. "We can do better than that and we need to do
better than that. We'll work hard to do better than that. That's
not acceptable. Take nothing away from the Clippers, but you just
can't let people shoot in your face all night."
Riley announced four hours before tipoff that he'll undergo
surgery Friday to remove floating chips in his right knee. He's
then expected to schedule hip surgery once he recovers from the
first procedure, and has no timetable for a return to coaching.
Riley's absence, combined with the pregame deactivation of
forwards Antoine Walker and James Posey over their failure to meet
team body-fat standards, only added to the dark cloud hovering over
"It felt terrible out there," Heat center Michael Doleac said.
"I got negative. I got down. And that's not right. You've got to
fight that and stay positive as best you can and do whatever you
can to win. Ridiculous. We're playing basketball. It's supposed to
be fun, but the air around us is bad right now."
In Riley's absence, Rothstein takes over. He was the franchise's
first coach, leading the Heat for their opening three expansion
seasons from 1988 through 1991.
He didn't have much talent to work with in those days.
He doesn't have the Heat's full arsenal now, either.
Miami played again without center Shaquille O'Neal, who has been
in only four games because of an injured knee. Finals MVP Dwyane
Wade missed his third straight game with a sprained wrist, and
neither Walker nor Posey will travel to Phoenix because of the
Add forward Wayne Simien, out indefinitely while recovering from
a recurring case of salmonella, into the mix and the Heat had only
10 players in uniform Wednesday.
And the Clippers happily exploited Miami's depth issues.
"We prepared as if Wade and those guys were playing, just in
case," Brand said.
Brand and Kaman combined to make their first 10 shots -- both
were 5-for-5 before Brand missed a jumper over Doleac with 14
seconds left in the opening quarter -- but the opening period ended
tied at 29, even with the Clippers shooting 68 percent from the
The Clippers cooled a bit in the second quarter, shooting only
58 percent, but held Miami to 35 percent shooting and used an 11-0
run midway through the period to help build a 61-51 lead at
halftime. The Heat missed nine of their final 13 shots of the half,
including a pair from close range that left Mourning staring in
disbelief at the rim as intermission started.
It didn't get much better for Miami in the third, as the
Clippers opened on a 13-4 run. And by quarter's end, while the
Clippers continued pulling away, some of those who remained in the
sellout crowd booed as the Heat fell to 8-9 at home.
"As a professional basketball team, that's unacceptable,"
All results during Riley's absence will be on his career
record. Rothstein's will remain 97-231. ... The Clippers were
without guard Sam Cassell (sore heel). Cassell was on the floor
pregame, shooting jumpers, but missed his sixth consecutive game.
... Miami was 31-10 at home last season.