Game Day: Rockets vs. Heat
Analysis and observations from the Rockets' 106-103 win over the Miami Heat
- If you like your basketball to resemble a hoops version of arena football, goodness gracious, was the first quarter of tonight’s game for you. The Rockets and Heat combined to roll up 71 points in the period with Houston seizing a 39-32 lead by the end of the opening frame. The Rockets got whatever they wanted whenever they wanted it, carving up Miami’s defense with nine assists on 15 made field goals while connecting on 4-of-5 from beyond the arc for a rather robust effective field goal percentage of 73.9 percent. The Heat showed absolutely no inclination or ability to control Houston’s dribble penetration and, as a result, the Rockets seemingly scored at will.
Both teams’ offenses have been crazy good since the start of February and it seemed each club’s respective D needed a good 12 minutes to find some semblance of footing.
- Getting the ball rolling for the Rockets in the early going was Chandler Parsons, who kicked off the contest by rattling home a jumper before dishing off a pair of sweet passes that led to a Terrence Jones dunk and Pat Beverley triple. Watching Parsons go head to head with Shane Battier brought back memories of the Florida product’s rookie season when he would occasionally conjure moments that made one consider the possibility that Parsons might have more in common with the former Rocket than originally thought. Indeed, though they’re clearly different players with differing strengths and skill sets, both Parsons and Battier share a knack for doing so many of the little things that don’t show up in the box score yet significantly contribute to winning.
During his rookie campaign, I frequently talked with Parsons about the resemblance, and he admitted that many in the Rockets organization had already provided him with film of Battier’s play so he could learn some of the wily veteran’s tricks of the trade. It occurs to me now that it’s a pity Parsons didn’t get at least one season to assimilate some of those lessons in person. Then again, the third-year player has done pretty decently on his own, I suppose.
- There’s very little at this point that can be considered shocking when it comes to LeBron James’ greatness. His place in the basketball pantheon has already been secured, the only question now is how close to the holy of holies he will ultimately get. Still, it was rather remarkable to see him score 19 first half points while looking like he was playing half-speed for the vast majority of the opening two periods of play. Prior to the game, he did admit to feeling exhasuted on the heels of his career-best 61-point performance the night before against Charlotte. Perhaps that helps explain the way he seemed to coast at times tonight, and why he only mustered a mere three points in the second half. Credit, too, must go to Parsons, Beverley, Howard and the rest of the Rockets' players who put forth a tag team effort to slow the greatest player in the game today.
- Talk about a tale of two quarters. After all of the offensive fireworks of the first period, Houston began the second by scoring just two points through the opening six minutes. That scoring drought coincided with a rough stretch of play from Jeremy Lin, who’s current slump has not at all been aided by a sore back and other various aches and pains. Lin did have a nifty layup and a swat of a shot from Mario Chalmers, but his own shot – so sure and true early in the season – continued to be wayward during the first half, taking away from the aggression he needs to have and feeds off of when he’s playing his best basketball.
- Speaking of guys who struggled Tuesday night, Miami’s starting point guard was far more Wario than Mario this evening, as Chalmers got repeatedly burned defensively while blowing several quality looks at the other end. Nicely encapsulating his night was a play in which James Harden appeared to toy with Chalmers at the top of the key, rocking him completely off balance before blowing by him for a bucket. If there’s such a thing as the anti-Midas touch, Chalmers certainly monopolized it tonight.
- The Rockets did ultimately recover from their rocky start to the second period, doing just enough to hit halftime with a 53-52 edge. It certainly helped that Miami missed all but one of their 10 3-point attempts and a bevy of free throws as well. But the Rockets received no bigger life raft tonight than the one that was supplied by Pat Beverley. This was yet another one of those games where you wonder where on earth Houston would be this season if not for the energy, tenacity and fearlessness supplied by its point guard who plays like he’s permanently attached to a Red Bull IV. He had more energy than anyone else on the floor (combined, probably) and the fact that he was seemingly the only one on the floor capable of hitting multiple triples through the game's first three quarters didn’t hurt, either. Beverley tied his career-high for 3s made in a single game for the second straight contest, connecting on 5-of-7 from downtown.
But much more than his scoring, it was his complete and utter unflinching indefatigability that seemed to carry his club past any road blocks they encountered tonight. Need an extra possession? He’ll grab a rebound. Need a defensive stop down the stretch? He’ll guard LeBron. He did it all tonight, setting the tone from start to finish. What a player. What a performance.
- The Rockets struggled at times getting the ball to Dwight Howard when he was being fronted by the Heat’s post defenders. But Houston countered with a quick and easy adjustment to start the third quarter, eschewing an entry pass from the wing and instead dishing to a man at the elbow who had a much better angle, opening up an easy passing lane to Howard for a dunk.
- The Rockets rolled off a 15-4 run to start the third quarter, making it look easy while Miami simply looked gassed, getting caught flat-footed on at least a half-dozen occasions during that stretch. Case in point: after netting no fast break points in the first half, Houston racked up a whopping 14 such points in the third quarter.
- Also huge: the Rockets gained a pair of extra possessions in the final minute of the third quarter, turning them both into buckets. Combine those four points with an insane, banked-in James 3 that was eventually ruled to have been just a fraction of a second too late, and you have yourself a 60-second sequence that will likely be forgotten by most, but one that nonetheless turned out to be positively massive upon perusing the final score.
- James Harden and Dwight Howard certainly did their thing tonight, with Harden recording double-digit assists in consecutive games for the first time in his career while Howard dominated the paint on both ends of the floor, producing 22 points and 16 boards while making Chris Bosh appear downright invisible (5 points, 5 rebounds).
But the fact remains that Beverley and Terrence Jones stole the spotlight during significant stretches of tonight’s contest. TJ was downright beastly on the offensive glass; never more so than in the final frame when his putbacks and second chance points helped Houston keep Miami at bay. Both Jones and Beverley finished with 19 points apiece, leading a dominant performance from Houston’s entire starting five as each member owned a plus-minus of +10 or better on a night when the Rockets’ reserves largely came up empty.
- This game had nail-biter written all over it coming into the contest and though it took a rather circuitous route to get there, it most definitely arrived in the end. A Harden turnover in the final minute gave Miami one last chance to tie things up and send the game into overtime but LeBron’s last-second 3 missed badly, allowing Houston to escape with a 106-103 win. Hero-ball aficionados take note: James’ step-back bomb was quite similar to the shot he famously hit against Golden State to give his club a big win on the road before the All-Star break. But at the end of the day, it was a low percentage shot, and with Miami’s plethora of talent – and James’ prodigious playmaking skills – it’s hard not to believe the Heat couldn’t have generated something better in that situation. Not that the Rockets will complain, of course.
And I'd be remiss if I didn't bring up Dwight Howard's tremendous defense against James on the game's final play. Howard was switched onto Miami's superstar after a screen, pitting the two titans into a one-on-one duel with the seconds dwindling and the Heat in need to a 3. Howard gave no ground and in fact made James move east-to-west, forcing him into an exceedingly high degree of difficulty off-balance jumper. As Pat Beverley said of Howard after the game: "There's a reason why he's a three-time Defensive Player of the Year."
The Rockets’ win moves them to 41-19 on the season. Up next: a date with the Magic in Orlando tomorrow night.
HOUSTON ROCKETS COACH KEVIN McHALE
(On team's execution and play) “I thought we did some good stuff. We made some plays. TJ (Terrence Jones) went in and got a big offensive rebound. We got some stops. We got some separation on them. We played well. I thought during stretches in this game we played really well. We had a great start and a really good third quarter where we extended the lead a little bit. We did a lot of really good things tonight. That was a good game.”
(On defending LeBron James)”We had different guys on him. We felt that Jordan (Hamilton) could guard him a little bit. Chandler (Parsons) did a nice job on him (LeBron James). I thought that what we were able to do was our wings with James (Harden) and Chandler didn't guard so we switched up sometimes. They were on Ray Allen...we switched all the match-ups around as foul trouble and stuff dictates but those two guys had nineteen assists between them, so they really did a nice job of breaking down the defense and finding the open guy.”
(On Pat Beverley's play) “Patrick's just a tough kid. I love Patrick. He's just a tough junkyard dog. He goes out there and just plays hard all the time. He's got great grit. He's got great heart. He's been knocking down the three (pointer). That helps when you have him knocking down 3's. Like I said, Miami is a very good team. They take things away and they give other things. We were trying to get the ball out of the pick-and-roll and swing it to the corner and Patrick makes a big three from there. He just played well.”
(On Terrence Jones) “Terrence played well. Terrence has had two really good games. He had a huge offensive rebound. He had a big, short left baseline jumper when we started extending the lead out. His last game was tremendous. He's getting his juice back. This is really truly his first year playing as a young player you ebb and flow and hit some walls and I think he was tired but he's getting it geared up and he's really played well.”
(On keeping the lead the whole game tonight) “(We) just wanted to come out with some aggression and start the game off with a bang and just continue to play the way we've been playing the last couple of months.”
(On the play of Pat Beverley) “The last couple of games he's been playing well, knocking down shots and playing defense well.”
(On how he feels the game was played overall against the Heat) “We've been playing well. These last couple of months we have really found a little niche and we're comfortable with how we're feeling.”
(On the effort of the whole team) “We tried to come out and jump on them from the beginning. We understood they had a back-to-back so we wanted to come out running and we had some good success with that early in the game.”
(On him shooting five 3-pointers) “I'm getting coached every day on my shot. I work hard on my game. I work hard on my craft every day so I guess it is paying off now.”
(On the Rockets thoughts when Michael Beasley hit that 3-point shot) “Just stay composed. There's no need for us to get worried. We knew we just had to get the ball in and make a good play. Situations like that, the best thing we can do is stay composed. If we point the finger our put our heads down it gives the other team confidence. That's something we've been trying to work on all year.”
(On the Rockets having many contributors offensively tonight) “We are a balanced team. We have balanced scoring. We have a lot of guys who can put the ball in the hole but I don't think that should be our focus. The focus should be on stopping guys. We did a great job tonight in our half court defense against a great offensive minded team and we've got to continue to do that for us to be champions.”
(On guarding LeBron James on Miami's last possession) “I wanted to keep him with the ball in his left hand and to try to make him do a step-back 3 (pointer). I know that if the ball had gone to his right hand he would have gotten an opportunity to get into a rhythm with his shot. I tried to keep the ball in his left hand and make him shoot a step-back and I was able to contest it.”
(On withstanding Miami's fourth quarter rally to tie the game) “It just shows we've grown a lot. We've matured a lot throughout the season. We've been in a lot of those situations. Early on in the year we wouldn't have had this outcome tonight so I think our team is maturing. We are getting more comfortable with each other. Guys are stepping up and making big plays and we're just getting better.”
(On his strategy for trying to defend LeBron James) “First of all, I'm sure he was exhausted out there after what he did last night. I kind of got him on a good night but I was trying to be physical with him. I tried to limit his touches and not let him get anything easy. At the end of the game, we were switching everything and Dwight did a great job of taking him out to the 3-point line and making him shoot a long 3 point step-back jump shot. We showed him different bodies, different looks and we tried to pressure him. When I was physical with him guys from the help side were great coming over and contesting him. We did a pretty good job of not fouling him too much.”
(On the win) “First off, I just want to say the Rockets fans tonight were amazing. There was a lot of energy in the building and I think that helped us out a lot tonight. We just had a lot of hustle plays by so many different guys. We were playing hard and we were playing team basketball, which got us this win tonight.”
MIAMI HEAT COACH ERIK SPOELSTRA
(On the game) “In the second half, we were trying to stick with that we might have to win this one ugly. The game wasn’t going our way in the third quarter and a lot of that was self-induced. They played extremely well, but we gave them some baskets where we didn’t even get back with the extra effort. It was a strange game for us defensively. At some points in the second quarter, we were outstanding. At other parts in the beginning of the first and most of the third, it’s about the worst we can play defensively yet we still found a way to show some toughness and resolve to hang in there and make a game of it going down the stretch and then it just becomes about who makes more plays and they made more plays down the stretch.”
(On what was different tonight on his teams play) “I don’t know. I really don’t because we came in with momentum. Our second quarter was much more to our identity, to who we are, holding them to fourteen points. It’s a very good offensive team and you have to be doing a lot of different things effort and focus wise. The momentum just didn’t in the third quarter, three or four of their baskets came in transition where we didn’t make the effort to make them go to something else.”
(On Michael Beasley’s play off the bench) “He stayed ready and when his number is called, he has to produce. Everybody notices when he scores, but he was doing some different active things defensively on the other end, but he gave us a scoring punch.”
(On if he was surprised to see Dwight Howard guarding LeBron James on the final play) “No. They were switching on the pick and roll. Typically, teams do that at the end, so there’s not a rotation that leads teams to the final shot.”
(On Pat Beverley’s play) “I wouldn’t count him out because he has that mountain sized chip on his shoulder. Great work ethic and that’s a good testament for a lot of players that want to break into this league. From NBDL players to Europe, sometimes it just takes the right timing, the right opportunity and it doesn’t necessarily reflect who you are as a player. That might be his greatest strength is his resiliency.”
(On the key to not being able to get over the hump in the second half) “It was the rebounds, couple of missed opportunities and that was the key. They out rebounded us by thirteen and they had sixteen second chance points. We got it to a tie game then Terrence Jones hit a jumper and then Terrence Jones got an and-one. We were getting stops but we just couldn’t clean the glass. We had our chances.”
(On the team being a little tired) “I fought through it in the first half, but it just wasn’t there for me. “B” (Beasley) stepped up for us and “D Wade” had it going and Ray hit some shots. It’s always key to have guys that you can lean on. I was very proud of him (Beasley) and I told him that he played one heck of a game. I told him to use this as a springboard and maybe this will give coach more trust in him. Nights like this where guys are feeling due to back to backs because they are tired, a young guy like that can come in and give us a lift like that is huge.”
(On the game) “It didn’t go our way. In the third quarter, they got off to a bigger lead than we needed them to get to. They have a team that can score the ball and we gave them too much of a cushion. We used up so much energy to get back in trying to come back. It was a very good game. Houston can put the ball in the basket as good as anyone. The only thing we didn’t do good tonight was rebound the ball.
(On the Rockets) “They’re a good team. They are a team that no one is really talking about with all the hoopla with Oklahoma City, the Clippers, and the Spurs. They are sort of the forgotten team. Especially at home, they are very tough.
(On Pat Beverley) He’s been great for them. This is a unique team the way they play and it’s difficult to prepare for them in a single walk through. Beverley is the engine that makes them go, and he pushes the pace. They are good and they can make shots and they have two All-Stars. You don’t enter the conversation without those two things. Now it comes down to getting stops and having the mental fortitude it takes to win a playoff games.”
Houston registered another sold out crowd of 18,523 tonight, which stands as the fourth-largest regular season attendance in Toyota Center history. Overall, it gave the Rockets 28 sellouts on the season, matching the single-season record for Toyota Center (28 sellouts in 2007-08).
The Rockets registered a 106-103 win over the Heat tonight, snapping Houston’s seven-game losing streak to Miami (1/15/10-2/6/13). The victory also moved the Rockets current home winning streak to six in a row (1/28/14-3/4/14), matching their season best of six straight (11/11/13-11/29/13).
Houston now holds a record of 13-0 against Eastern Conference opponents at Toyota Center this season.
The Rockets went 40-of-78 (.513) from the field and never trailed in tonight’s game. Houston also hit 42-of-84 (.500) in a wire-to-wire 118-110 win vs. Detroit (3/1/14).
Houston has now had all five starters reach double-digit scoring 16 times this season. The Rockets now own a record of 14-2 this season when all five starters net 10-plus points.
The Rockets have won their last 19 games when scoring at least 100 points (1/3/14-3/4/14).
Houston handed out another 24 assists tonight. The Rockets now own a record of 23-4 this season when dishing out 22 or more assists.
The Rockets outscored the Heat by 39-32 in the first quarter tonight. Houston has now netted 30 or more first-quarter points in 10 of its last 13 games.
Dwight Howard led the Rockets with 22 points (8-13 FG, 6-8 FT) and 16 rebounds tonight. Howard now has 40 double-doubles on the season. The last time a Rockets player reached 40 double-doubles in a season was Charles Barkley (42) in 1997-98.
James Harden posted 21 points (9-15 FG) and another game-high 11 assists tonight. Harden also finished with 20 points (7-16 FG), a game-high 12 assists and three steals vs. Detroit (3/1/14). It was the first time in Harden’s career to record 10-plus assists in consecutive games.
Terrence Jones totaled 19 points (8-13 FG) and 12 rebounds tonight. He also led the Rockets with 22 points (10-15 FG) and 10 rebounds in a 118-110 win vs. Detroit (3/1/14). Jones has now posted two consecutive double-doubles four times in his career.
Pat Beverley, who matched his career high in 3-pointers made (5-9 3FG) vs. Detroit (3/1/14), added 19 points (6-12 FG) on another career-best 5-of-8 from downtown tonight. Beverley is now 13-of-23 (.565) from beyond the arc over his last five games (2/23/14-3/4/14).
Dwyane Wade recorded 24 points (8-15 FG, 8-12 FT), six assists and two steals tonight. Wade entered this game with a career scoring average of 27.3 points per outing against Houston.
LeBron James finished with 22 points (9-18 FG), six assists and three steals tonight. James, who scored 61 points last night vs. Charlotte (3/3/14), had netted at least 30 points in each of his prior four games against the Rockets.
Michael Beasley came off the bench with a season-high 24 points (9-13 FG, 4-7 3FG).