It's amazing how much harder it is to make three pointers when you have LeBron James and Dwyane Wade closing out on you instead of David Lee and Steph Curry sitting on their hands. With James Harden trying to carry the Rockets on his back with perhaps his best performance in his career, the Rockets were still unable to best the Miami Heat, who took it by a score of 114-108.
No matter how good Harden was, the Heat simply seemed determined to be better. Each time the Rockets climbed within reach, it seemed like a Heat player would step up with a huge charge drawn or a corner three to put the game back out of reach. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were ridiculous as always, with 32 and 31 points, respectively, and Norris Cole and Udonis Haslem stepped up in big ways with Chris Bosh sitting out with flu-like symptoms.
Even with a tough loss, it's hard to give the Rockets much blame. The Heat without a doubt were the more talented team, and when they get going, they're nearly impossible to stop. If Dwyane Wade and LeBron James do this, I don't know what can be done to slow them down.
With that said, let's dig deeper into the loss and look at a few performances of note, starting with none other than the Bearded One:
1) James Harden
Even with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James clicking on all cylinders, it was clear to anyone who watched the game who the best player on the floor was on Wednesday night. That honored belonged to Mr. James Harden. Not only was his stat-line out of this world (38 points, 12 rebounds, and 7 assists), but he carried the Rockets offense in a time when nobody was willing to take the load.
In short, he was everything you could ever dream of in a superstar. Let's just hope Mr. Morey can find him another All-Star running mate this summer.
Describing how great Harden's night was, Tom Haberstroh of ESPN gets the tweet of the night:
Harden becomes just the 3rd opponent in Heat franchise history to go 36-12-7. The other 2? Fat Lever and... LeBron.— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) February 7, 2013
2) The "Power" Forwards
Ugh. Patrick Patterson had an alright night on the offensive side of the ball, but it was an all-around awful night for the men manning the four position. Marcus Morris couldn't hit the far side of a barn with his shot, and neither Morris nor Patterson could corral a rebound.
Omer Asik had a tremendous performance rebounding the ball, but he can't be counted on to grab 14 boards a night. I don't like to criticize coaches for not playing unproven rookies because I can't see how they're performing in practice, but you have to wonder why Motiejunas or Jones aren't at least getting a crack at the spot.
3) James Anderson
This note is twofold. Firstly, James Anderson had a nice night. He played great defense for most of the game, made some plays, and grabbed a couple of rebounds, and generally filled the role of bench wing well.
On the other hand, it makes no sense that he was playing down the stretch while Chandler Parsons was sitting on the bench. Parsons was not having a bad night by any standards, and though he had 5 fouls, by sitting him with those fouls, you're essentially fouling him out at 5.
In a crucial moment as the Rockets narrowed the Heat lead to three with 18 seconds left, Anderson got the ball and drove straight into Udonis Haslem who was well-positioned to draw the charge. After that, the game was essentially out of reach.
All hope is not lost. The Rockets stuck with a championship contender on the road and still sit in the playoff picture out West, a half game ahead of the Portland Trailblazers and three ahead of the Lakers. They face off against the Trailblazers at home on Friday at 7 PM CST. We'll have the coverage as always at the Dream Shake.