Game Preview: Houston Rockets vs Miami Heat

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Houston, now holding a record of 40-17 after dismantling the shorthanded Suns on Saturday, have won six of their last eight games (including four in a row). The Rockets are led in scoring, assists, and rebounds by MVP candidate James Harden, at 29.1 points, 11.3 assists, and 8.2 rebounds a game. The Rockets have moved up in every rating stat after their last game, now ranking 2nd in offensive rating, 12th in defensive rating, and 3rd in net rating.

The Heat have found themselves in the 11th seed out East - sitting at 24-32 on the season - after holding a record of 11-30 just 15 games ago. Although the Heat have dropped their last two games, they have played well as of late as those two games are the only thing separating them from a blistering 13 game win streak. The Heat are led in scoring and assists by Goran Dragic, at 20.3 points and 6.3 assists, and in rebounds by Hassan Whiteside at 14.1 per game. The Heat rank 26th in offensive rating, 6th in defensive rating, and 16th in net rating.

Starting Lineups

Eric Gordon, who missed the last two games with back tightness, and Ryan Anderson, who cut his thumb, are questionable for Wednesday's game but are both probable to play. The Rockets will likely start James Harden at point guard, Patrick Beverley at shooting guard, Trevor Ariza at small forward, Ryan Anderson (or Sam Dekker if Ryan can't play) at power forward, and Clint Capela at center, with Eric Gordon getting starter’s minutes as the sixth man (again, if he is able to play).

The Heat have been without Chris Bosh, Josh McRoberts and Justice Winslow for most of the year, and that will continue for Wednesday's game while Josh Richardson is doubtful having suffered a sprained ankle. The Heat will likely start with Goran Dragic at point guard, Dion Waiters at shooting guard, Rodney McGruder at small forward, Luke Babbit at power forward, and Hassan Whiteside at center.

Three Things to Watch

  • Last One Before The Break – Wednesday's game will be the Rockets' last before they get a rest for All-Star Weekend, and the Rockets will be looking for win number 41 - their season total from last season. Watch to see if the Rockets end the first part of the season on a high note and take care of business, instead of looking forward to a long rest.

  • Try Again – The Heat started their 13 game win streak against the Rockets when these teams matched up on January 17th, right in the middle of the Rockets worst month of the season. The main contributor in Houston's six point loss was poor three-point shooting as the Rockets made fewer than 25% of their threes in Miami. Watch to see if the Rockets are able to hit their threes and put the Heat away early, like they should against an undermanned team.

  • Defend the Rim – The Rockets allow the highest FG% in the league on attempts between 0-3 feet, which means that the Rockets are struggling to defend shots at the rim. Rim protection is a must against a team with a big like Hassan Whiteside and a quick, slashing guard like Dragic. Watch to see if the Rockets bigs, who are on a few days' rest, are able to do a better job at contesting opposing layups.

Prediction and Tip-Off

This Rockets are going to go for five in a row and I say they get there. A team like the Heat likely won't beat a good team twice, and the Rockets are well rested. The only way the Rockets lose is if they begin to look ahead to the break.

Tip-off will be at 7:00 P.M. Central Time in Houston on Wednesday, February 15th. The game will be televised on ROOT SPORTS, with the radio broadcast on Sports Talk 790-AM.


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