Miami HEAT at Houston Rockets Game Preview

Justise Winslow
Photo Credit: Cameron Browne

The Miami HEAT face the Houston Rockets Thursday night at Toyota Center. Tip-off is set for 8:00 PM, and television coverage is on FOX Sports Sun. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.

1: How were the HEAT able to pull it off against the Warriors?

Couper Moorhead: When Dwyane Wade, in his final season, hits that shot against that team in that situation, there really isn’t anything else to say. So many things went well for Miami Wednesday night, from getting into the bonus early in the first quarter and riding that to the free-throw line, to Goran Dragić scoring 20 points in the second quarter and the team shooting 18-of-40 from deep as they held off run after run after run from the Warriors until Golden State finally broke through in the final minutes. It was as strong a game as the HEAT played all season long and it was still looking like another tough one with 18 seconds to play. Then Wade hit one three, Kevin Durant missed a free-throw and Wade followed up with one of the most incredible game winners you will ever see. Wade mentioned in the locker room after the game that he’s been looking for great moments all season long, and, to paraphrase his sentiment, its great moments like this that will let him ride off into the sunset in peace when it’s all said and done. These are the moments that transcend the years.

Joe Beguiristain: Well, you may have heard by now that Dwyane Wade hit a crazy game-winning three at the buzzer.

Seriously though, the HEAT simply came out with more energy and focus than the Warriors and were able to sustain that throughout the rest of the contest. Sure, Klay Thompson had his moments and Golden State made a nice run in the second half, but you can only limit that group for so long. And as Coup stated above, Miami responded time and time again whenever the Warriors picked up some steam.

Of course, it took a team effort to do so, as six guys scored in double figures, including Goran Dragić with a team-high 27 points and Wade with 25 (10 in the fourth). That marked just the second time in franchise history that two players off the bench had 25 points or more in the same game.

And while those guys were instrumental in the victory, we can’t forget about Bam Adebayo’s stout defense on the perimeter for most of the night. On one possession in particular down the stretch, Adebayo forced Steph Curry into a crucial turnover when the game was tied at 118.

That’s big time.

Dwyane Wade2: What did we learn about the matchup with Houston last time these teams met?

Couper: Nothing we didn’t already know before. Houston was definitely thrown off a bit in that game when Chris Paul left the game with an injury after playing just 12 minutes, but it was as much a game against Houston as a game against Houston can get. The Rockets took 54 threes, making 18, and played a ton of isolation ball as they tend to do with James Harden getting his usual 35 points. But the HEAT absolutely dominated the paint, outscoring Houston 52-20 around the rim and collecting an incredible 20 offensive rebounds which became 28 second-chance points. Short of hitting threes like they did against the Warriors, that’s probably Miami’s formula for winning Thursday night on a back-to-back – the Rockets are going to take their threes, but if you can attack the paint and punish their smaller lineups on the glass, you give yourself a good chance.

Joe: It’s hard to glean too much from that last matchup in late December since Chris Paul basically missed the whole game, Dragić was out and Tyler Johnson played a major role in the fourth quarter.

Still, there’s something to be said about the HEAT’s solid defense against James Harden and Eric Gordon. Thanks to a mix of man and zone defense, Miami (particularly Josh Richardson and Derrick Jones Jr.) held the duo to a combined 13-of-40 from the field.

Now, things will obviously be different with CP3 back in the fold. And as of late, the 33-year-old has played very well, averaging 19.1 points, 10.3 assists, 6.0 boards and 1.6 steals over his last seven games.

We’ll see how the HEAT respond.

3: How can the HEAT capitalize on the win against Golden State?

Couper: By continuing to win. Incredible as the moment was, it only counts as one game in the standings. Fortunately, just about every team around Miami has lost in the last couple of days so they made up a fair bit of ground with that one as they’re once again tied with Orlando and just half a game back of the Charlotte Hornets for the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference. There’s something to be said about a shot like Wade’s galvanizing a team – remember what Waiters’ game winner against Golden State two years ago, or Wade’s winner against the 76ers, started – and it was notable that Justise Winslow noted in the locker room that Wednesday was as connected as the team has felt all season, but the only way for it to mean something to the playoff race is to keep defending, keep hitting shots and keep winning. Simple as that.

Joe: Coup hit it right on the head.

With just 22 games left in the regular season, Miami has to keep grinding to get back to where it wants to be. And it all starts with moving the ball and defending at a high level. The HEAT may have had only 20 assists against the Warriors, but their offense was clicking and guys were getting solid looks for the most part.

It’ll take that kind of effort and more during this difficult final stretch for Miami.

HEAT at Rockets Head To Head

Game Notes:

  • The HEAT defeated the Rockets 101-99 in their last meeting on Dec. 20.
  • Miami is 27-33 on the year, while Houston enters the contest at 36-25.
  • The HEAT are 7-0 against the Southwest division this season.
  • James Harden leads the Rockets in points (36.2) and steals (2.1) per game.
  • Hassan Whiteside (Left Hip Strain), James Johnson (Slight Left AC Sprain), Emanuel Terry and Yante Maten (Sioux Falls Assignment) are all out.

Efficiencies (Rank):

  • HEAT Offense: 106.4 (24)
  • HEAT Defense: 107.5 (8)
  • Rockets Offense: 114.2 (2)
  • Rockets Defense: 111.9 (25)

For live in-game updates of Thursday night’s contest, follow @MiamiHEAT, @CoupNBA and @JoeBeguiristain on Twitter.

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