The Rockets showed maturity and resolve in winning a game in which there was a clear emotional let down after the weekend’s massive win over the Golden State Warriors. But they made all the key plays down the stretch and closed an 88-88 tie game with an 11-2 run to defeat the Miami Heat 99-90.
James Harden finished with 28 points, 5 assists, and 2 blocks, and Chris Paul finished with 16 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 steals. Most importantly, they alternated clutch shots in the closing minutes, and Harden even made another key block down the stretch for the second straight game to seal the victory.
It wasn’t all flowers and rainbows for the Rockets tonight, however, as the they came out clearly flat and allowed the Heat to go up 33-25 and shoot 71 percent in the first period.
They also had problems with Miami’s tough defense, as they went into the halftime break down 50-46, which was their lowest first-half point total of the entire season.
They went up 57-55 on a Paul jumper with 7:40 left in the third, however, Houston’s first lead since early in the first quarter, and it was a back-and-forth contest from there until Houston’s two stars wrapped up the game for the Rockets as only stars can.
In addition to the Houston’s main duo, the Rockets also got 16 points from Eric Gordon, though he still struggled from deep, going 0-7 from beyond the arc. He’s now on an 0-15 streak from deep.
Houston also received 14 points and 8 rebounds from Clint Capela, and he slammed home an exclamation point to close out the game in the fourth-quarter. He did, however, struggle a bit matched up against Hassan Whiteside, especially in the first half. Capela was unable to match Whiteside’s physicality, especially on the glass, but he rallied and battled the Heat big man a little more effectively in the second half.
The Rockets also got 9 points from Ryan Anderson and P.J. Tucker, as they both hit three triples apiece. It’s good to see them showing signs of shooting life after prolonged slumps.
One important factor to mention is that Gerald Green received no playing time, as head coach Mike D’Antoni only went with a nine-man rotation, despite plenty of pre-game talk of rolling 10-deep with a fully healthy roster. It remains to be seen how Green fits into the team’s plans moving forward when everyone is available.
The Heat were lead by Whiteside, who finished with 22 points, 13 rebounds, and 3 steals, though 18 of his points came in the first half.
They also got 13 from Wayne Ellington, 12 from Josh Richardson, and 10 each from James Johnson and Kelly Olynyk. They couldn’t match the Rockets with deep shooting, however, going just 7-30 from beyond the arc, while the Rockets knocked down 15 of their 37 triples. That was a major difference in the game.
The Rockets now move to 33-12 on the season, have won three games in a row, and are now three games back of the Golden State Warriors for first place in the Western Conference. They lead the third-place Minnesota Timberwolves and San Antonio Spurs by 4.5 games.
The Rockets are off tomorrow night before traveling to Dallas on Wednesday to take on the cross-state rival Mavericks.