Rockets 109, Heat 117 - Rockets Overlook Miami Heading Into All-Star

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That wasn’t ideal.

Despite winning four in a row (and five of the last six), the Rockets couldn’t manage to take care of an inferior opponent in the Miami Heat, who, albeit, rattled off a league-best 13 game win streak not too long ago. Nonetheless, with fresh legs and eyes ahead to a week off for NBA All-Star, Houston should have been able to send the Heat back to South Beach with a loss.

Miami lived up to its team name early, completely lighting the Rockets ablaze with 73.7% shooting from the field – including hitting three of four from beyond the arc, much more effective than Houston’s two of seven from range. Houston’s defense was porous, but they managed to keep the game close (34-28).

Houston seemed to tighten things up defensively to start the second period, but Miami fired back to build a double-digit lead. In fact, the Heat managed to build a 15-point lead and basically maintain it for the last six minutes of the quarter. Despite the Heat holding this lead, Miami’s shooting percentage plummeted to just 33.3% from the field. Houston, however, could not capitalize, shooting 36.8% from the field and converting only one of seven attempts from three (they were just 3/14 in the first half). Houston went into halftime with a 13-point deficit (58-45).

The third period did absolutely no favors for the Rockets, despite James Harden and Clint Capela combining for 18 points on a combined 56% shooting. No other Rocket had more than three points in the quarter, which allowed Miami to maintain its 15-point lead at quarter’s end. Miami had actually built its lead up to 20, but a quick flurry of scoring from Harden, Sam Dekker, and Eric Gordon made the game more manageable.

Ryan Anderson, who is ailing from a lacerated thumb after taking out the trash (yes, I’m serious), really found his mojo and scored 14 points – including four threes in the final period. His scoring flurry was good enough to cut Houston’s deficit to single digits momentarily, but Miami staved off any real attempt at a comeback. Houston’s momentum essentially ended when Anderson picked up a technical foul for expressing his frustrations on a play that saw Hassan Whiteside block away two of his shots at the rim; Ryno thought both were goaltends.

Whiteside, Dion Waiters, and former Rocket Goran Dragic were major problems for the Rockets in this game, combining for 65 points. Waiters, who has been on an absolute tear lately, nearly recorded a triple-double with 23 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists. Whiteside also scored 23 points, and he hauled in 14 rebounds and blocked five shots.

Houston had a late barrage of threes to bring the Rockets within six points with about 26 seconds left in the game, but it was too little, too late. Despite Anderson’s 14 points and Harden contributing 12 of his own, the rest of the team only scored 10 points. That was kind of the story for this entire game. Harden had a monster game, and he had flashes of help from teammates at different points. However, the lack of defense and lack of scoring help when it mattered is really what sank the Rockets in this game.

The Rockets will have a week off thanks to the All-Star Break in New Orleans, which will see James Harden start in the All-Star Game and Eric Gordon compete in the 3-Point Contest. The Rockets won’t have to travel very far (Harden and Gordon specifically) as Houston returns to action on Thursday, February 23rd (the date of the NBA trade deadline) in New Orleans against Anthony Davis and the Pelicans.

Game Ball

This is a segment of the game recaps that will give the proverbial game ball to a player that proved to be most valuable to the Rockets on a given night. This award won’t necessarily go to the player that puts up the best numbers, but to the player that made the greatest impact on the team – tangible or intangible.

Wednesday’s game ball goes to James Harden.

It’s only fitting that Harden put up an All-Star performance just days before he makes his very first start in the NBA All-Star game. On Wednesday, he put up another ridiculous stat line (38 points on 47.6% shooting, 12 rebounds, and 12 assists with only four turnovers), Harden couldn’t quite send his team into the All-Star break with smiling faces – but it wasn’t for lack of trying.

Let’s just hope this game was a result of the Rockets looking ahead to a much-needed week off, and a hot Miami team taking advantage of that.

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