HOUSTON — This year was not a great one for the Houston Rockets. The year began with the departure of James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets in January and ended in December after witnessing two losing streaks of 15 or more games.
The Rockets spent all of 2021 in basketball purgatory, so it’s fitting that Houston closed the calendar year with a 120-110 loss to the Miami Heat on Friday. With the loss, the Rockets dropped their sixth consecutive game while falling to 10-26 on the season. By losing to the Heat, the Rockets will wrap up 2021 with a record of 26-79.
For a team that features the likes of Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro and Kyle Lowry, it was a 2019 second-round pick in Kyle Guy that gave the Rockets the most trouble early in the game.
The basketball prodigy from Virginia had a career night inside the Toyota Center, as Guy scored 17 points while connecting on four out of his six shot attempts from behind the arc. Guy scored 15 of his final point total during the first half, and he played a vital role in the Rockets trailing by as many as 25 points midway through the second quarter.
But regardless of how bad things got for Houston in 2021, the Rockets never faltered. The Rockets fought their way back from a 25-point deficit and cut the Heat’s immense lead down to five late in the fourth quarter.
For most of the game, the Rockets could not find their rhythm on the offensive end but nearly pulled off a comeback victory behind a massive performance from Jae’Sean Tate.
Tate missed the previous two games due to the NBA’s Health and Safety protocol, and he was not cleared to play against the Heat until two hours before tip-off. Coach Stephen Silas said during his pregame press conference that he did not know what to expect from Tate, but the second-year forward led the way with 22 points, seven rebounds, two steals and a block in the loss.
If Tate had more help on the offensive end, perhaps the Rockets would have closed the year with one of their most impressive wins of 2021. Christian Wood added 18 points while Jalen Green accounted for 16, but Houston needed Kevin Porter Jr. to hold his end of the bargain.
Porter put together one of his most inadequate performances since joining the Rockets in late January by shooting 27.2 percent from the field for seven points and five turnovers.
But similar to the loss against the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, it took the opposing team’s MVP player to prevent the Rockets from adding a game to their win column.
Against the Lakers, it was LeBron James. Against the Heat, it was Butler. The Texas native torched the Rockets for a season-high 37 points in the win. Herro scored 16 points while connecting on one triple, as Lowry added a dozen in the win.
After the loss, the Rockets will try to open 2022 with a much-needed victory on Saturday, when Houston faces off against the 17-16 Denver Nuggets. Tip-off is at 7 P.M. CT inside the Toyota Center.