Heat Prove Too Hot For Rockets
Exceptional effort from Houston not enough as Miami's Big 3 left Heat to 125-119 win
MIAMI - Sometimes your best simply isn’t good enough.
That’s a bitter pill to swallow, to be sure. But it’s also the truth. Inevitably in life, there are going to be occasions when you bring your A game, give it everything you have, put your best foot forward and yet still somehow manage to end up on the losing side of the ledger. It’s certainly not fun and it hardly seems fair. But as with most things on this mortal coil, what matters most lies not in the result but in the response.
The Rockets left it all on the floor Sunday night in Miami. Their offensive execution was a sight to behold, repeatedly carving up one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. Kyle Lowry continued to play like an All Star, shrugging off a sprained left ankle suffered in the second quarter to finish with 25 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds. Kevin Martin and Luis Scola were terrific, too, combining to score 57 points. And all Chuck Hayes did was spend his entire night taking turns defending Chris Bosh and LeBron James. How many centers – heck, how many players, period – can capably do that?
The Rockets did all that and more Sunday night. And guess what: it still wasn’t enough to offset an historic effort from Miami’s Big Three as Dwyane Wade, James and Bosh became the first players from the same team to each tally at least 30 points and 10 rebounds in a non-overtime game since Oscar Robertson, Jack Twyman and Wayne Embry pulled off the feat for the Cincinnati Royals in 1961. Their spectacular performance helped lead the Heat to a 125-119 victory, snapping Houston’s 5-game winning streak in the process. And a Memphis win over San Antonio, dropping the Rockets two-and-a-half games back in the chase for the Western Conference’s 8th and final playoff spot, certainly didn’t help numb any of the pain being felt in the Rockets’ postgame locker room.
But what of the big picture? The Rockets went on the road, stood toe-to-toe with a true title contender and played well enough to give themselves a chance to escape with a victory. No, they did not play perfect, but perfection is A.) Unattainable and B.) Especially evasive when dealing with an opponent that creates the sort of mismatches Miami does. To wit: second chance points killed the Rockets Sunday night. But when players like James and Wade are flying in from the wings and wreaking havoc the way they do, there are going to be casualties and there is going to be collateral damage. In the first half, that just so happened to manifest itself in the form of one Miami offensive rebound after another. Suffice to say, the Rockets undoubtedly paid a heavy price for their inability to do a better job protecting the boards.
But there are no more Miamis left on the Rockets’ schedule. Challenging opponents remain to be sure, but Houston’s toughest tilt is now in the rearview mirror. And if the Rockets can bring an effort similar to what they displayed against the Heat every night from here on out, they may yet find a way to finagle themselves into the postseason picture. The Rockets probably need to finish 8-1 the rest of the way to make it. Play like they did Sunday night and, at the very least, they’ll give themselves a chance.
Because even though the desired result didn’t materialize in Miami, the process itself was sound. No, the Rockets’ best wasn’t good enough to get a win Sunday night. But it still might take them where they want to go.
Just a tough loss. Our guys really played their tails off. I think if there’s anything that hurt us it was their penetration and their rebounding – they just killed us on the boards.
(their rebounding a result of their penetration or from the help defense?): It was both. That’s what we talked about at halftime. We started man-to-man in the game and that hurt us – Wade and James just ran right by us – and then we went to a zone and we knew that was going to be a problem but even then we didn’t put our body on people. It was just the first half, a three point game, and they were up by 20 points in second chance points. That’s one thing, we were trying to keep them from getting easy opportunities and we didn’t do it.
We came back, they had us down 10 and we got it back to three, we just didn’t have enough. I think we ran out of gas.
You can’t give them second shots and that’s what we did. We attacked them – we knew that’s what we were going to do have to do – but unfortunately their three guys really took over the game.
(Kyle’s play): He played extremely well. I told our team: now the challenge is responding in New Jersey. We gave what we could tonight and came up short and now you’ve got to regroup and try to come back and get that game Tuesday and go from there.
It was just the offensive rebounding; the second chance points hurt us. We were able to still be in the game but we take care of their offensive rebounding in the first half we’d carry a three possession lead.
We just have to box out and it takes gang rebounding. What hurt us was we were watching too much. There were a lot of times Wade and James got in there, or Mike Miller coming in and keeping the ball loose. If it’s not that, then somebody would rotate off of Bosh and he would get offensive rebounds. So it’s a team collective effort; a help-me, help-you type deal. Even if with all that we still had our chance to win and we just, I guess the offensive rebounding that hurt us in the first half came back to haunt us in the fourth where we just got them in rhythm.
“The offense was making shots. We were executing, passing the ball - transition to transition and our effort was there. We met them toe-to-toe as far as effort and energy. We just allowed too many second chance points.”
I think you have to give credit to their two best players – that’s what they do at the end of games is pick and roll and they just move well attacking. They played well but we also played well tonight and got some positive things out of tonight but we didn’t pull out the win so that’s the bottom line.
(were you expecting a shoot-out?): Not at all because they’re a pretty good defensive team and we thought it was going to be more of a grind it out game but the tempo was just there tonight and more in our favor but they have two guys who played the same way.
(Miami’s second chance points) killed us, especially in the first half. At one point I think they were almost outrebounding us by 20. That’s what killed us tonight.
We gave it all we had and we played hard but we didn’t execute well enough to win. Hopefully tomorrow in practice we’ll work on that and then get the next two games on the road trip.
You can’t really put your head down too far. We just have to keep on moving without the ball and just playing with each other.
On the game: “We played a good game, but we made a lot of mistakes. We easily could have won this game. That’s not the way we want to lose. We made a lot of mistakes. We know those guys can score, but we can score too. We were right there the whole game – just too many mistakes.”
“It was a close game all the way to the end. They just closed it better.”
“Rebounds were a big thing that we didn’t have today when it was crucial. They made a lot of shots. We made a lot of shots too, but we don’t want to play to 220 points. We want to play to 95 to 100 points. On that type of game, it might be better.”
On the game: “We didn’t hit shots. They [the Miami HEAT] didn’t turn it over. We just didn’t hit shots. They’re a good team. They made some jump shots. They made some tough plays. Dwyane Wade made some good, tough shots. We missed shots. We got a little stagnant.”
“The offensive rebounds - they killed us on that. They beat us up on that.”
MIAMI HEAT HEAD COACH ERIK SPOELSTRA
On the game: “That was a fan’s delight but a coach’s nightmare. That was one of the best scoring teams we’ve faced all season long. They (Houston Rockets) have done a lot of different things and their players are skilled. Kyle Lowry is one of the most improved we’ve seen since the last time we’ve played them, but significantly from last year. His confidence is at it’s all time level. That is a very good offensive team; they make it tough on you. We were finally able to get some stops out there at the end. Offensively I’m encouraged by the progress we’re making, it’s very good. We had another season high with 64 points in the paint. We’re getting a lot more aggressive and committing to getting paint attacks rather than settling. Hopefully, when we go on this road trip we can bring our defense with us and get back to our identity.”
On the factors of their second chance points: “We’re committed to getting guys at the rim. There are several different ways we can do it, but we’re trying to get our bigs in as many different situations to be able to get their head under the rim. As a team we’re more committed to executing and a lot of those are triggers that happen to put the bigs at the rim. When the ball goes up they’re in better position for those [second chance] opportunities. It is an overall mentality that we have to continue. I am encouraged by the progress we made and hopefully we can keep it up.”
On Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh’s scoring: “That’s what makes great players special, which is they can be great during the year but still find another gear on another level to go to. I think that is what you’re seeing with those three guys (Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh). Another factor is probably the more games playing with each other, within the system, and with all the other guys, they’re getting more comfortable and are being able to play without thinking and using more of their instincts, which is part of what makes them so special.”
“I looked up at the scoreboard late in the game and Chris (Bosh) had 28. He went to the line and missed one of the free throws and I didn’t think he was going to get back to the line. Me and D. Wade (Dwyane Wade) were just talking about how great it would be for all three of us to have 30, and (I) had no idea that we also had double-digit rebounds too. To know the history of the game and how many great players have come through this league; to go down in history, to have three teammates to have 30 and 10 for the first time in over 50 years is unbelievable.”
“It’s always good to go into a timeout, draw up a play, and then come out and execute, no matter what point in the game it is. It means a lot more when it’s a one possession game and D. Wade (Dwayne Wade) was able to turn the corner and get a left handed lay up to put us up by five. It was good to see that we were able to come out of a timeout where Spo (Erik Spoelstra) drew up a play and we executed to a t.”
On going back to Cleveland: “I don’t know (what to expect). It can’t get any worse than it was December 2nd; I know that for a fact. For a team and myself individually, we’re going to go in there with the same mind set, and just try to get another win. On December 2nd, that was a big win for us because, after that game we took off.”
“We actually had a conversation previous to this (tonight). The other night me and him (LeBron James) had 30 and Chris (Bosh) had 20 something, and (we talked about) how great it would be to have a 30, 30, 30 night. It came the next night. When he (Chris Bosh) had an opportunity to do it, to get up there, we let him know ‘Hey get up there and make one of these free throws.’ It’s a true testament to the reason we all came together. It’s a great feat.”
On how he is feeling after missing some of the third quarter: “I just wanted to get extra treatment and therapy in the back. I felt there was enough time to get the things I needed. To get stretched and see if I had enough power in my legs to take off. I knew I would come back. It will be sore tomorrow. I’ll just come in and get the treatment and take the medicine that the doctors give me to take. Hopefully it will get better each day.”
On Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh’s ability to carry a scoring load during playoffs: “That is the reason we’re all here. If all three of us (Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh) weren’t producing that way, then there would be a problem, I’m sure. We’re fine with it. We’re doing what it takes to help us win a ball game. We’re in a position so much on offense to be able to be successful. Our teammates, they have chances and opportunities to do certain things, but we have the ball all the time. I think when it comes to rebounding, we’re being aggressive, we want it.”
On the game: “We’re all trying to be aggressive. We’re all trying to do whatever it takes to win.
On the big statistical numbers: “We’re going to have to play at a high level. In the playoffs, we’re going to have to assume that teams are going to make adjustments. They are not going to sit back and let us be aggressive. I think our guys always do a great job of just being ready. We still have (Mike) Bibby, he’s going to be there. Z’s (Zydrunas Illgauskus) finally back, and hopefully Mike (Miller), James (Jones), and Eddie (House) can stay in the rhythm. Eventually, they’re going to have the ball in their hands because we’re going to create so much attention. I think the guys have to keep that in the back of their minds and we all do. We’re just trying to win. That’s the bottom line. We’re just trying to win games. We have to keep working toward our goal.”
On having fun: “That was one of the things we (Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James) talked about when we came together was making history. People thought we were a little crazy. It’s nice to talk about it, especially things that haven’t been done in a long time. We’re trying to accomplish the major goal of winning a championship. Sometimes you can enjoy the little things in between.”
On a defensive identity: “I don’t think we have strayed away from a defensive identity. We need to concentrate a little bit more and just have that resiliency for the whole game. I think we see it in spurts but we’re still trying to put it together, and we just have to stay hungry. Today, the Houston Rockets were very tough to guard, plain and simple. They’re a tough team to guard. We can build some confidence and play some good defense for four quarters. There are going to be times in the playoffs where I’m sure we’re going to have a bad shooting night. We’re not going to be able to rely on our offense. If we have a chance to close a team out, we’re going to have to find a way to get it done, and we’re going to need to do it with defense.”
On getting acclimated to the Miami Heat: “I’m still trying to learn defensively all the rotations. A lot of the breakdowns are because I’m trying to figure out where I’m at. I am thinking too much out there.”
On the Miami Heat’s Defense: “It’s (defense) a lot different than what I’m used to.”