The Miami Heat have not lost a close game since November 3. Since then, they are 12-0 in games decided by five points or fewer as well as overtime games. That helps explain how a team with a -0.7 net rating has a record of 27-19 and sitting comfortably in the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference.
On the one hand, you want to say that their luck will run out and that close games are usually coin-flips. “The regression to the mean is going to be...mean,” you say lamely. On the other hand, 12-0 isn’t a tiny sample size and there has to be something Miami has been doing to help them succeed in high-pressure situations. Maybe it’s believing in themselves. Maybe it’s great play-calling. Maybe their whole team has the “clutch gene.”
So, the best way to beat Miami is to blow them out. Because that’s easy.
Goran Dragic missed their last game with a knee bruise, but he’s likely to play again tonight against his former team. He’s played Houston pretty well since leaving during free agency, and that would fit with this year’s theme of former Rockets torching Houston.
James Johnson owned the Rockets so much last year that he got a piece of the Rockets sale by Les Alexander. Hassan Whiteside is a walking double-double. Wayne Ellington shot 6-10 from deep in their last game. Justise Winslow went to St. John’s here in Houston and will undoubtedly have 200 people in the stands (to sit with the other 200 fans at Toyota Center).
Long story short: this Miami team is good, clutch, and not afraid of big games and moments. Houston will have its hands full.
For the Rockets, they’re finally whole again! With the return of Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green from suspension, Houston now has everyone healthy (or at least healthy enough to play) for the first time since in well over a month. And that December squad didn’t have Green.
Speaking of Green, it will be interesting to see how MDA inserts him back into this rotation. MDA doesn’t like to extend his rotation past nine players, and Green slots as the tenth player. What I’d love to see is Houston giving rest days to PJ Tucker, Eric Gordon, and Ryan Anderson in order to give them some time to get some rest and maybe work on their shots. Those three players have appeared in more games than any other Rocket. Ryno’s confidence has been shaken for a month now and PJ Tucker only shoots well against Golden State, apparently. EG had a great game against Minnesota, but followed it up with his worst game of the season against the Dubs.
The Rockets really needed a kick in the pants last week and got it with the Clippers game and the secret tunnel situation. Now we’ll see if they can play with intensity when it isn’t against a top 4 team in the West.
Tip-off is at 7pm CT on NBA TV