An Eric Bledsoe blocked shot on the taller Dwyane Wade as he went up for a dunk in the second quarter sent a resounding message to the Miami Heat on behalf of the Los Angeles Clippers:
Not in our house.
The Clippers reiterated that message throughout the night as they mitigated a stellar game by LeBron James (30 points, seven assists, five rebounds, two blocks) by completely taking the other two-thirds of Miami's big three out of the game in a major statement game at Staples Center on Wednesday night as L.A. prevailed, 107-101.
Chris Bosh and Wade were a combined 5-for-23 from the field and committed five turnovers while scoring just 17 points. The Clippers' activity on defense was the primary reason for their struggles.
Both teams got up for the game, and the intensity on both sides was obvious as the energy inside Staples was electric, but it was the Clippers that displayed the active athletic defense that fans across the league have grown accustomed to seeing from the Heat. They beat the defending champions at their own game and proved they could play with anybody.
The Clippers now have wins over the Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs and Heat, all playoff teams from a season ago. More than that, they've done so in convincing fashion. Though they played a complete game, led by Jamal Crawford's efficient 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting, it was defense that was the most encouraging aspect of the victory.
The Clippers aren't just moving into the class of being among the NBA's elite, they're already there.