Well, so much for predictions. In the game thread earlier tonight, I predicted that the Rockets would come out rested and ready to get one back against the Miami Heat tonight at home after losing to the Heat in South Beach a few weeks back. But the Rockets made a fool out of me for that prognosis with a listless and uninspired performance in the final game before the All-Star break, falling to the Heat 117-109.
The game wasn’t nearly as close as the final score would lead to believe, as the Heat led wire-to-wire against the Rockets after shooting a scorching 14-19 from the field in the first quarter to jump out to an early lead that the Rockets would never recover from.
James Harden did have his 15th triple double of the season, finishing with 38 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists, but he received little help elsewhere until it was too late. The offense was stagnant for much of the game, and the defense was even worse, as they essential allowed the Heat to score at will.
Miami shot 52.4 percent from the field, 37.4 percent from beyond the arc and got big contributions from several players. Dion Waiters finished with 23 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists, Goran Dragic had 21 points and 5 assists and Hassan Whiteside was completely unstoppable, racking up 23 points, 14 rebounds and 5 blocked shots.
The Heat big man routinely abused both Clint Capela and Nene, and the Rockets looked completely overmatched in the paint against one of the league’s best centers.
The Rockets also lost the rebound battle 46-41, but one particular stretch was incredibly troubling in which the Heat snagged five consecutive offensive rebounds, four of which came from guard Tyler Johnson. The Rockets’ inability to box anyone out during that sequence illustrated the surprising lack of effort and focus against a team the Rockets should have been able to beat.
Houston was actually down as many as 20 point in the second half before finally getting their wits about them in the fourth quarter, when they cut the lead down by hitting 7 out of their 13 total three-pointers in the stanza. Four of those triples came from Ryan Anderson, who struggled all game before getting hot and scoring 14 points in the fourth to finish with 17 for the game. It wasn’t enough to lead the Rockets back from three previous quarters of ugly play, however.
The Rockets also got 12 points from Capela and 12 points from Eric Gordon, but both were mostly ineffective despite the double-digit scoring. No other Rockets players finished in double figures, and they also suffered a blow when Patrick Beverley never returned to the game after halftime with a strained groin. It remains to be seen how severe the injury is, but at least the Rockets are heading into an extending break to give Bev time to heal.
The ugly loss drops the Rockets to 40-18, and instead of heading into the break on a five-game win streak as once again one of the league’s hottest teams, they instead limp into it with questions about their defense and their inability to keep up with the league’s better big men.
Could a trade be on the horizon as we also get close to the deadline? In addition to possibly another front court player to help out on the inside, the Rockets could also benefit from another shooter or another ball handler.
We’ll have plenty of time to ponder what, if any, moves the Rockets should make at the deadline with the team off until next Thursday, but a season sweep at the hand of the Heat show this team could really use a minor improvement to the roster before heading into the postseason. I’ll have more thoughts on potential moves in the coming days.