HOUSTON, Feb. 14 (Ticker) --
Rookie Caron Butler
played like the
veteran the Miami Heat were missing.
NBA TV highlights from|
Butler stepped up in the absence of Eddie Jones
and scored 24
points as the Heat stopped an eight-game road losing streak with
a 94-82 victory over the slumping Houston Rockets.
"This is one of our best games in a long time," Heat coach Pat
Riley said. "We played well from beginning to end. It was a
good win against a very good team."
Jones, the Heat's leading scorer, is expected to miss at least a
couple of games after aggravating a left groin injury in
Wednesday's loss to New Orleans. In January, Miami went 1-6,
including 0-5 on the road, while Jones was out with a sprained
Without their leader, the Heat played a spirited game, never
trailing and shooting a season-best 51.5 percent (34-of-66).
Butler led the way, falling one point shy of a season high.
"Coach said for me to be ready to attack tonight," Butler said.
"Every time I got the ball, I tried to take it to the rack.
We're missing Eddie Jones, so the offense has to go through me.
My teammates did an excellent job of getting me the ball in a
position where I could do something with it."
"He played great. We're going to go to him from now on," Riley
added. "He's really matured. It's time for him step up like he
did. And he wants it."
and Mike James
each added 15 points for Miami, which
led by as many as 18 in the first half.
scored 27 points to lead the Rockets, who lost for
the ninth time in their last 13 games. After the latest
defeat, the Rockets held a team meeting.
"I think he (coach Rudy Tomjanovich) really got his point
across," Francis said. "Right now, the way we're playing, we're
not going to beat anyone. They gave us an old-fashioned
Houston fell to 12-10 against sub-.500 teams.
"It's something that the guys are very aware of," Tomjanovich
said. "The only way this is going to change is for everyone to
evaluate what they're doing. It's some kind of syndrome and
it's mostly mental."
The Heat were in control throughout, building a double-digit
lead less than six minutes into the contest and holding a 26-18
advantage after one quarter behind 10 points from Butler.
and James combined to score the Heat's first
nine points of the second quarter, extending the lead to 35-20.
James led a strong effort by Miami's bench, which outscored the
Rockets' reserves, 25-15.
Butler, who was 8-of-15 from the floor and 8-of-9 from the line,
sank a jumper and Best split a pair of foul shots, giving the
Heat their biggest lead of the first half at 48-30. They
settled for a 50-33 advantage at the break.
Upset when he slid to 10th in June's draft, Butler clearly was
the best rookie on the floor. Houston center Yao Ming
, the top
overall pick, finished with 10 points and eight rebounds.
"The way he played today, he could've been an All-Star," said
Yao, who played in the All-Star Game on Sunday.
The Rockets, who were stagnant offensively for much of the
night, finally found their rhythm in the third quarter and
closed to 66-58 with 4:20 left in the period on two foul shots
Francis was 6-of-18 from the floor but 14-of-18 at the line.
added 14 points and 12 rebounds for Houston, which
shot just 33 percent (26-of-79.
A jumper by Terence Morris
pulled the Rockets within 75-68 with
6:55 remaining in the fourth quarter. But Eddie House
with a jumper and Brian Grant
dunked to help the Heat regain