The Houston Rockets had the chips stacked against them tonight. They were playing the second night of a back-to-back on the road, against a good team, and they were without three of their main rotation members in Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, and Trevor Ariza.
But it was no matter to James Harden and the remaining boys in red, as The Beard dropped 41 points in South Beach, to go along with 4 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 steals to lead the Rockets to a 109-101 win over the Miami Heat for Houston’s sixth win in a row.
The Rockets came out of the gate fast and led by as many as 17 points in the first half, but as the game dragged on, legs got tired, and the Heat mounted a comeback. They actually took a 68-67 lead with 8 minutes to go in the third period and then went back up 87-85 with 9 minutes to go in the fourth, but Houston’s dynamic duo of Harden and Chris Paul stepped on the gas to squash any hopes of a Miami upset.
Paul, who finished with 24 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists, hit a shot to put Houston up 92-87, and then with under 3 minutes to go and the contest still close, it was MVBeard time. Harden hit back-to-back threes to put Houston up 107-94, and he scored 13 of the Rockets’ final 24 points to seal the deal for Houston.
Oh, and he also did this in the third quarter:
Harden’s 41 points came on just 25 shots, as he went 13-25 from the field, 5-12 from beyond the arc, and 10-12 from the free throw line. Most importantly, he pulled Houston over the finish line tonight in game in which they showed obvious fatigue from a long road trip. That’s what MVPs do.
In addition to Paul and Harden, the Rockets also got 13 points 8 rebounds, and 3 blocks from Clint Capela, and they also got 12 points from Gerald Green, though all of those came in the first half. The Houston rotation was 8-deep, with the unheralded Markel Brown the final guy off the bench because of all the inactive Rockets.
The Heat were led by Goran Dragic and Josh Richardson, who scored 30 points each, and Hassan Whiteside pitched in 16 points while also racking up 17 boards. They played a tired and banged up Rockets team tough, but couldn’t pull it out with the game on the line in the fourth, which should be a testament to just how good the Rocket are playing right now.
Houston finishes their four-game road trip a perfect 4-0 and now move to 40-13 on the season and just a half-game back of the Golden State Warriors for first place in the Western Conference. They’ll have tomorrow night off before finally returning to the Toyota Center on Friday to take on the Denver Nuggets.