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Houston Rockets vs. Miami Heat game preview

NBA: Houston Rockets at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight’s a slash game. In reference to Chrive’s chart of opponents, this is Houston’s last chance to knock off the Miami Heat.

Three days off? Again? Is this allowed?

After a brutal schedule that had even baseball players going “They’re playing too many games,” the Rockets have finally gotten some time off. Sure, that time off comes right before everyone gets a chunk of time off, but for the Rockets they will take rest any way they can.

Since their February 3 win over the Bulls in OT, the Rockets have played three games. For those counting, tonight will be Houston’s fourth game in 12 days. All three wins have come by double digits, and they haven’t trailed in the fourth quarter of any of them. Part of that is the competition, but mostly it has to be chalked up to the rest.

Suddenly, Houston’s defensive rating looks great. In February, Houston has an incredible DRtg of 99.2, good for second in the league. And remember, that includes the Chicago and Atlanta games. Combined with the tenth best offense in terms of rating, the Rockets sport the NBA’s best Net Rating among teams in February.

The Miami Heat were on an improbable 13-game winning streak, but have lost two straight since then. Part of me was drawn to the idea of Houston ending a 15-game winning streak that started with the Rockets back in January, but whatever.

That’s not to diminish the 13-game winning streak. Winning in the NBA is hard. To be a lottery team reeling off wins like that is super impressive. But the NBA has been put on notice. The Heat aren’t sneaking up on anyone anymore. And the Rockets don’t have the Miami nightlife to distract them the night before the game.

For Houston, Eric Gordon seems to be in line to return tonight, and Ryan Anderson apparently practiced yesterday despite cutting his thumb badly. Josh Richardson and local boy Justise Winslow will be out for Miami.

Shane Battier once said that the two toughest games of the regular season are the ones before and after the All-Star break. For the game before, everyone is thinking of their vacation plans. For the game after, everyone is remembering their vacations. Tonight, Houston will have to stay focused.

See you after the All-Star break!

Tip-off is at 7pm CT.