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Recap: Rockets at Heat, April 22, 2012

James' monster night lifts Miami to 97-88 win over Rockets

HOUSTON - For 45 minutes Sunday night, Rockets rookie Chandler Parsons went toe-to-toe with the NBA’s best player and more than held his own.

Checking LeBron James on one end and hitting big shots at the other, Parsons had just set a new career-high for scoring with a layup near the three-minute mark that brought his club back into a tie with the Miami Heat in a game Houston had to have in order to keep its flickering playoff hopes alive.

Up until that point, it had been the sort of happy homecoming the Florida product must have dreamed about the night before. 23 points on 10-of-13 shooting. Six rebounds. Four steals. All while playing a pivotal role in harassing James into five turnovers at the other end of the floor. With 2:57 left on the clock, the stage seemed set for a fantastic finish for both Parsons and the Rockets.

At which point James seized the spotlight, flipped the script and put an end to Houston’s postseason aspirations with the sort of otherworldly performance that will likely earn him his third MVP trophy in four years.

In the span of a mere 25 seconds, James drilled a 3-pointer over Parsons and then assisted Mike Miller for another Miami triple as part of a backbreaking 18-4 Heat run that put an end to both the Rockets’ hopes for victory as well as their postseason aspirations. James finished with a game-high 32 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists as Miami prevailed 97-88, sending Houston to its seventh loss in eight games.

As was the case throughout much of their season-defining slump, the Rockets were not without their chances to emerge victorious Sunday night. They jumped on Miami at the outset, taking full advantage of the fact the Heat were playing without stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. In fact, Houston led by as many as 13 late in the first quarter, thanks to strong efforts on both ends of the floor.

What the Rockets could not do, however, was establish any sort of sustained success. Miami ended the first quarter on an 8-2 run before proceeding to put the clamps on Houston’s offense in the second period. By halftime, the Heat were ahead and Houston’s season was on the brink.

His team feeling the pinch, Parsons stepped up and put on a show in the third quarter. As he’d already done multiple times this season against the league’s elite offensive players, Parsons rose to the challenge of squaring off against James, defending with aplomb and shooting with uncommon accuracy. All told, he scored 12 points in the period and his all-around play helped Houston regain the lead heading to the final frame.

But with James on the bench for a breather to begin the fourth quarter, the Rockets committed the cardinal sin of failing to capitalize during his absence. Houston did not play particularly poorly per se, but they simply did not do enough to prepare for the ensuing hurricane that was about to be unleashed. During the four and a half minutes James was off the floor to begin the period, the Rockets’ lead merely increased from three to four – not nearly enough of a cushion to offset the overwhelming 24-11 edge Miami enjoyed upon his return.

“Bottom line is it was a tie game and we had chances,” lamented Rockets Head Coach Kevin McHale. “We’ve got to make some shots. But look it was simple: We had 18 turnovers and they had 17 offensive rebounds – those two things killed us.”

And-1s: Prior to Sunday’s game, the Rockets announced that guard Kyle Lowry will miss the remainder of the regular season due to a sports hernia. In his fourth season with Houston, Lowry averaged 14.3 points, 6.6 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 1.55 steals in 47 games (38 starts).

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