Heat Bring Rockets' Win Streak To A Halt
Rockets keep it close, but Dwyane Wade and company prevail 125-119
HOUSTON - Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the other team and give credit where credit is due.
By and large, the Rockets did what they wanted to do Wednesday night against the Miami Heat: they played at their preferred pace, lived at the free throw line, beat the Heat on the boards, limited their turnovers while pressuring Miami into a slew of their own, and used their precision passing attack to carve up one of the best defensive teams in the league.
Yet for all of those accomplishments, the Heat still managed to escape Toyota Center with a 125-119 victory. Because Miami is just that good. Because Dwyane Wade is a scoring machine. Because LeBron James is a triple-double waiting to happen. Because Chris Bosh is an excellent, if not ideal, complement to his superstar teammates. And because, for everything the Rockets did right Wednesday night, Miami managed to make the one thing Houston did wrong failure to generate stops on the defensive end a lethal blow from which the Rockets could simply not recover.
Great teams have that gift: the ability to take another clubs best shot, remain standing and deliver one of their own with even greater force. And love them or hate them, make no mistake: Miami is a great team and that's precisely what they did.
But the Rockets revealed themselves to be pretty darn good themselves. This is a club with little to no interest in moral victories, but for those who perhaps dubiously viewed Houstons December resurgence based on the fact its largely come against sub .500 teams, Wednesdays contest had to be eye-opening.
For starters, the Rockets offense is legit, no caveats necessary. Houston came into the game tied for 7th in the NBA in offensive efficiency and unleashed the full force of its offensive arsenal against a Miami team that had held its previous 16 opponents below 100 points. The Rockets 119 points were a Heat opponent season-high, in fact. Houston accomplished that feat the same way its been doing it all month: by using exquisite ball movement (29 assists on 39 made field goals), pushing the tempo whenever possible (23 fast break points and 28 points off of 17 Miami turnovers) and leading a 48-minute-long parade to the charity stripe, where the team hit 32 of its 40 attempts.
The Rockets even unleashed a little-discussed facet of their attack their sneaky skill on the offensive glass, where they rank 10th in the NBA in offensive rebound rate by hammering the Heat with a 16-4 edge on the offensive boards. The only thing missing from the mix was the 3-point shot, as Houstons 9-for-27 mark was buoyed by a trio of treys that came during too-little-too-late time.
So there were plenty of positives to be gleaned Wednesday night, though it was not, quite naturally, all roses and rainbows. The Rockets have room for improvement and, to no ones surprise, most of the heavy lifting has to be done on the defensive side of the ball.
Few teams, if any, boast a 1-2 combo to match the skills and physical gifts of James and Wade, so Houston isnt the first and certainly wont be the last to be torched by that twosome. But the Rockets simply have to do a better job keeping such players out of the paint. Far easier said than done, of course, especially when it pertains to someone like Wade who makes his living exploiting the smallest cracks in opposing defenses on his way to the basket. But defending elite players is often more a matter of damage control rather than total lockdown. And needless to say, surrendering 45 points to Wade and allowing Miami to shoot 58.1 percent from the field isnt damage control, its disaster.
So now its time for the Rockets to return to work and get back to the business at hand. Toronto is coming to town fresh off a huge road win over Dallas, so they cant be overlooked. And everyone is keenly aware that January brings with it a beastly schedule. But as the Heats 3-ring circus leaves town, the Rockets have every reason to be excited for whats to come because the Miami litmus test taught them two things: The Heat are elite. And the Rockets aint too shabby themselves.
(On the game) Well our guys played hard. They did a lot of great things but we just didn't make enough stops. We couldn't keep (Dwayne) Wade in front of us. He (Wade) got to the basket way too many times but it was just a couple possessions here and there. We had a chance but just couldn't get it done.
(On the Heat) They're a good team but that doesn't help because we thought we had a good chance to win this game. We just didn't do enough. We can't give up that many points, especially putting them (Heat) on the line and having them get to the basket that many times.
(On the loss) They (Heat) were playing pretty comfortable throughout the game. They did a good job. They just played well. We played well at times too. We fought back and toward the end of the game, we put the game on the line and we were down three (points) with a minute to go but it wasn't enough. They were too good tonight.
(On the Rockets effort) We fought the whole game. We kept trying and we didn't quit. We didn't give up but it wasn't enough today. They (Heat) were just too good. They scored above 80 points between the three main players that they have. They were pretty good today.
(On scoring 119 against the Heat) We just wanted to get in the paint. We wanted to attack their bigs, as far as pick-and-roll wise. Getting into the paint and creating something. Offensively we did a great job. They (Heat) did a great job on offense; hitting jumpers, we wanted to limit the paint points they had, limit their points in transition. They did a good job of hitting jumpers today.
(On the foul being changed to a flagrant) Stuff like that happens. I'm not a vicious player. I wasn't trying to hurt him. It was a bad attempt at the ball but it was definitely intended for the ball. He (Wade) is alright. He has a bloody lip but that's basketball, we all have bloody lips at times. They called a flagrant. I hope I don't get fined. I'll just keep going.
(On how the Rockets matched up against the Heat) We weren't as sharp as we wanted to be tonight but we got beat by (six points) to a pretty good team. It was a good test of where we're at right now and we are still confident. We need to get it right and keep rolling.
(On the closeness of the game) It was just a good hard fought game. A couple of plays could have went our way and could have changed the game but that happens.
(On scoring of the Heat) They got a lot of paint points. A lot of guys were hitting jump shots. We just have to find a way to stop those guys from getting in the paint and making the shots that they need.
(On maintaining the offensive intensity) We're best when we are attacking playing fast and up tempo. The guys (Heat) started changing a few things that they did. We tried to force more turnovers but those guys made good plays.
I hope at this point weve proven to ourselves that we can compete with anybody when we do the things we talk about. If we continue to do the things weve been doing thing past month well be ok.
MIAMI HEAT QUOTES
COACH ERIK SPOELSTRA
(On the game) I told the players after the game that they absolutely love to play games like this but I absolutely hate games like this. Its a road win. Never discount how tough it is to win on the road.
(On Dwyane Wades play) Dwyane was explosive getting to the rim and he was making plays look easy. We dont ever take for granted his gift and the talent he brings to the court. It has been a very productive 80 minutes of basketball for him the last two games. The majority of players get angry and then they are not very productive ..he is the exception. He had a laser focus after the injury and he didnt let his anger get the best of him.
(On the teams 9 game road streak) It feels like a long time ago (since we lost on the road). Weve come a long way as a team and we feel like we are most improved but we still have a way to go.
(On being injured) It just gets me mad. Im real mad right now. I hate playing in Houston.
(On the road winning streak) Its great! At Thanksgiving everybody thought the walls were falling down and now weve won 9 straight on the road.
(On the game) This was a tough game for us. We gave up 119 points and that is not Miami ball. Houston played unbelievable and they are a great team.
(On Yaos injury) It is a tough situation for him. I feel very bad for him. Life goes on and he is a great human being with a good family. It is what it is.
(On the game) It was a tough game and it was good to see we had a lot of energy at the end of the game. To get a road win was great. Our energy and effort in the third quarter got us going and carried us over into the fourth quarter. It was a big win.
(On Wades injury) Ive seen it from him before. When you see blood, you know he is going into attack mode and that is exactly what he did.
(On Miamis play) Our schedule was very difficult in December and it was a tribute to our team the way we played. We are a different team now. We are a confident bunch and we try to bring that every game. We have to keep it going.
Lead Official Dick Bavetta
When Wade was fouled, hes lying motionless on the floor. Our initial intention was to see what the situation was with him because if he stays down on the floor for a period of time, then the team has to call time out. He just cant stay there without something done.
We then go over to the coach of Miami and ask if hes going to call a full time out or a 20-second time out. After that was administered to, we get together as a crew and discuss the play. The crew decided unanimously it was going to be a flagrant foul penalty-one. Video replay is not an option unless its a flagrant foul penalty-two.
Houston s attendance of 18,409 tonight marks the largest crowd this season. It is also the fifth sellout at Toyota Center in 2010-11. Overall, the 18,409 ties for the sixth-largest regular season attendance figure in Toyota Center history.
The Rockets had both their season-long five-game winning streak (12/17/10-12/27/10) and eight-game run at Toyota Center (11/24/10-12/27/10) snapped with a 125-119 loss to the Heat tonight.
The Heat becomes the first team in NBA history to win 10 consecutive road games in a calendar month. Miami also set its franchise records for wins in a month (15) and road wins in a month (10). The last team to win 15 games in a calendar month was the Detroit Pistons (15 in Dec. 2007).
Houston took a 44-40 edge off the glass tonight. Miami had not been outrebounded in any of its previous nine road games this month (one tie at Washington).
The Rockets set Miamis opponent season highs for points with 119 and tied the opponent high in steals with 11 tonight.
The Heat set or tied Houstons opponent season highs for first-quarter points (35), fourth-quarter points (37, tied), second-half points (66, tied), field goal percentage for a game (.581) and free throws made (34).
Houston tied its season-low seven turnovers, while scoring 28 points off 17 giveaways by Miami. The Rockets also turned the ball over a season-low seven times vs. Minnesota (11/7/10).
Luis Scola led the Rockets with 22 points (10-20 FG) tonight to extend his career-best streak of double-figure scoring to 27 consecutive games (11/6/10-12/29/10).
Kevin Martin notched 21 points (7-16 FG, 6-10 FT) and three steals tonight. Martin has now scored 20 or more points in each of the last seven straight outings (12/15/10-12/29/10).
Aaron Brooks registered 20 points (6-13 FG, 8-8 F) and matched his season-high nine assists. Brooks also totaled 24 points (7-16 FG, 4-6 3FG, 6-6 FT) and nine assists at the L.A. Lakers (10/26/10) for his first 20-point outing of the season.
Chuck Hayes had 13 points (3-6 FG, 7-8 FT), a game-high eight rebounds and three assists tonight. He was just one shy of his career high in free throws made (8-8 FT on 11/24/10 vs. Golden State).
Dwyane Wade scored a season-high 45 points (17-24 FG, 10-10 FT), including 24 points (10-12 FG, 3-3 FT) in the first half. It was the first 20-point opening half by an opponent at Toyota Center this season. Wades 45 points tied the opponent single-game record for Toyota Center set by Denvers Carmelo Anthony (45 on 3/15/10).
Chris Bosh posted 21 points (8-14 FG, 5-6 FT), four boards and two blocks tonight. Boshs last action at Toyota Center came as a member of the Toronto Raptors, posting 25 (11-22 FG) and seven rebounds at Houston (3/3/09).
LeBron James recorded 20 points (8-15 FG, 4-4 FT), nine assists and six rebounds tonight, upping Miamis record to 7-2 this season when three or more players score 20-plus points.