Just 24 hours after scoring a career high 61 points, LeBron James and the Miami Heat were looking to put on an encore performance against the Western Conference powerhouse Houston Rockets. With a record of 40-19 the Rockets came into Tuesday Nights tilt sitting just one half game back of the Portland Trailblazers for third in the Western Conference, after winning 11 of their last 13 games.
The Rockets Kevin McHale was named Western Conference coach of the month for February after leading his team to an 8-2 record during that span, while the Heat’s Erik Spoelstra earned that honor for the Eastern Conference with a 9-1 record in February. The Heat won the last seven meetings between these teams, but Tuesday night marked their first match up of this NBA season.
Much of the hype coming into this game surrounded LeBron James following his career night against the Bobcats. Since returning from the all-star break, James has been putting up otherworldly numbers. He is averaging 37.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, 5 assists and two steals, all of this while shooting a blistering 67.9 percent from the field and 51.9 percent from the three-point line.
The Heat came into this game looking to extend their win streak to a league high nine games. The Rockets would be looking to expose the Heat’s biggest weakness, rebounding. The Heat are the worst rebounding team in the league, averaging just 36.8 boards per game. The Rockets on the other hand, are sixth in the league in rebounding at 45.3 per game. Dwight Howard is one of the main reasons for this, as he is fourth in the league in rebounding with 12.5 per game.
The Rockets would need to take advantage of Miami’s lack of rebounding to avoid an encore performance from LeBron James and the Heat. In the first quarter it was Patrick Beverely putting the Rockets ahead early. Beverly knocked down his first three pointers to lead Houston to a scorching start, as they put up 39 points in the first quarter.
LeBron James had 12 points on 5 for 7 shooting in the first quarter, but the Heat trailed 39-32 after one. The Rockets started the second quarter ice-cold as they scored just two points in the first six minutes of the frame. Despite shooting 1 for 10 from beyond the arc in the first Miami only trailed Houston by one, 53-52. James had 19 points at the break, while Howard had 13 for the Rockets.
Houston came out of the locker room on a mission to beat the Heat as they started the third quarter on a 15-4 run. The Rockets dominated the pace of the third quarter as they scored 14 fast break points and outscored the Heat 30-21 in the quarter and took a 83-73 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Miami stormed back in the fourth, starting the quarter on an 11-2 run and eventually tied the game at 89. The backcourt combination of James Harden and Patrick Beverely would answer for the Rockets as Houston went on an 11-2 run of their own later in the quarter. The Rockets held a 106-100 lead with under a minute to go, but a three pointer by Michael Beasley cut that lead to just three. After a costly turnover by the Rockets the Heat had another chance down by three with just 13 seconds left to play.
A last second three pointer by LeBron James would come up short and the Rocket would hold on to 106-103. Dwight Howard recorded his 40th triple double of the season with 22 points and 16 rebounds, James Harden finished with 21 points and 11 assists. Houston finished with five players scoring in double digits and shot 51.3 percent from the field for the game.
Dwyane Wade led the Heat in scoring with 24 points, while LeBron James followed up his career night with 22 points and 6 assists, but was held scoreless in the fourth quarter. The Houston Rockets stole the show during LeBron James and the Miami Heat’s encore performance and temporarily moved into third place in the Western Conference.
By Eric Kummel