Heat execute in final minutes, Rockets still learning, fall in Miami

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Midway through the third quarter you had to like how the Rockets were playing against the Heat in Miami.

Tied 92-92, the Rockets got what seemed like their 5,347th floater in the lane of the night, this time it was Chandler Parsons over Chris Andersen. The Rockets players did not fear the Heat shot blockers all night. At the other end, Chris Bosh missed a clean look at a three then Birdman missed a clean tip, Dwight Howard pulled in the rebound and threw the outlet to James Harden who pushed it up one-on-three, then pulled up and knocked down a three. It was is 97-92 Rockets.

Everything went south for Houston soon after.

Miami closed the game on a 15-0 run as they executed and attacked, while the Rockets took poor shots and seemed when a couple bad calls didn’t go their way fell apart. The result was a 113-104 Heat victory.

Miami needed this win, having lost five of six coming in and even with the win they are three games back of Indiana for the top spot in the West. Now the Heat get three of four against sub-.500 teams and a chance to try and chase down that record.

Four Houston it was another game with fantastic offense much of the night but not enough defense or execution when it mattered.

Rockets fans will be quick to point to some bad calls — and there were. LeBron should have been called on a pick for holding Jeremy Lin. The technical foul on Patrick Beverly after a hard but clean foul on LeBron was ridiculous. You know what good teams do in that situation? Put it behind them and overcome it.

It’s games like this where we’re reminded that this Rockets team is young and still learning how to win together. Lessons that will get furthered in the playoffs (where they still should make the second round but need to defend more consistently).

For the first time since he shed the mask LeBron was aggressive again and finished with 24 points on 8-of-17 shooting. He wasn’t sharp, however, with five turnovers to go with his five assists, and you can credit Chandler Parsons and the Rockets defense for that.

But with the attention on LeBron it left Dwyane Wade to attack James Harden — 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting — and Ray Allen to shoot over everyone and score 25 points on 7-of-11 from the floor (4-of-6 from three). Chris Bosh added 18 points on 12 shots and played well.

Harden had 30 points to lead the Rockets, Howard added 21 points and 14 rebounds.

But they came apart at the end.

It started with 4:26 left and the Rockets up 102-98 — after a made basket by Beverly Howard tipped the ball to the official, and was assessed a delay of game, the second one so it led to a technical. By the letter of the rule and how the league has called it all year that is a delay of game — technically Miami could have taken the ball out faster because of what Howard did, you don’t have to like the rule (I don’t, it should only be called when trying to slow the other team up from inbounding the ball) but the league has called it that way all season.

After that Houston was a mess on both ends.

First Wade attacked Harden off the dribbled and scored. Miami’s pressure defense then never let the Rockets get off a good shot and the result was a Chandler Parsons prayer that was not answered. Then Allen got wide open underneath for a lay-up — this is the pick where James held Lin, but even if he doesn’t Lin will be late arriving (LeBron is a big screen) and Parsons didn’t recognize it and cut off the passing lane. Jeremy Lin then chose a poor time to just chuck a three. Ray Allen didn’t miss his three at the other end.

And so it goes. The Rockets shoot 0-of-6 down the stretch and the one good look — a Harden lay-up attempt off penetration — rimmed out. Miami just kept making plays.

It was a rough week for the Rockets, losing to the Thunder, Bulls and now Heat on the road. But that’s how you learn lessons, and the teams that persevere through it become better, become contenders down the line.

Rockets were draining threes in the first half against Warriors in Game 6

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The Rockets were feeling it the first half in Game 6.

Playing with an energy the Warriors lacked at least in the first quarter), Houston defended well, pushed the ball in transition, and then they just drained three after three after three.

Eric Gordon started 4-of-4 from three and the team was 11-of-22 in the first half, which made up for the 11 turnovers and had them up 17 at one point and ahead by 10 after the first half.

Warriors’ Andre Iguodala out for Game 6

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Steve Kerr has been searching for a couple of games now for his fifth guy.

With Andre Iguodala out there is no Death/Hamptons 5 lineup and Kerr is looking for a fifth guy to partner with his four All-Stars. Kevon Looney is starting, Jordan Bell is showing potential but also makes some rookie plays, Nick Young has been bad enough that Kerr trusted Quin Cook more at the end of the last game (and Cook missed his looks).

Kerr is going to have to keep searching for a guy in Game 6 because Iguodala is out again.

The Warriors are not the team heading into Game 6 with the most significant injury woes, the Rockets are without Chris Paul. That and the fact the Warriors’ backs are against the wall is the reason they are heavy favorites in Game 6.

However, the Warriors have not been the same without Iguodala. He is a playmaker who can control the ball and settle things down, makes the right decision, get the player and ball movement the Warriors have strayed too much from back, plus is one of their best defenders on James Harden. Nobody else on the roster can do that.

And if Game 6 gets tight late, the Warriors are going to miss those skills. As they have in the last two games.

Marcus Smart on Game 7: ‘It’s not going to be pretty’

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Game 7s are not pretty basketball. Everyone is tight, shots clank off the front of the rim, and players tend to think rather than just react, sucking the flow out of the game. It’s a game for grinders.

Marcus Smart is good with that, and he told Chris Forsberg of ESPN the team is preparing for this style.

“It’s not going to be pretty. You got to be able to get down and get dirty. You can’t go out and try to look pretty. You have to be ready for a dogfight. We got to be ready to come up with our nose bloodied. We got to be ready to come out with our mouth bloodied. We have to come out ready to fight.”

If Boston is going to win this game, they will do so with the physical, smart, and unrelenting defense that carried them all season. That’s their grit. Without Kevin Love (out with a concussion) the Celtics have one less scorer to worry about, but things do not necessarily get dramatically easier — LeBron James is going to get his buckets, but can the Celtics keep George Hill, Kyle Korver, J.R. Smith and the rest of the role players from helping out with big nights of their own.

Which one of these teams is better positioned to win a grinding, sloppy game? Who is willing to dive on the floor and give that little extra effort? A case can be made either way, but Sunday night will decide it.

Report: Warriors’ Patrick McCaw cleared, will be available for Game 6

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We haven’t seen Golden State’s Patrick McCaw on an NBA court since March 31, when he was undercut by Sacramento’s Vince Carter and took an ugly, nasty spill.

McCaw is finally cleared by the team doctors and will be active on Saturday night for Game 6 against Houston, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Golden State Warriors are planning to activate swingman Patrick McCaw for Game 6 of the Western Conference finals against the Houston Rockets on Saturday night, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

McCaw, on paper, would help the Warriors — he’s a 6’5″ switchable defender who can provide some offense in transition. That’s especially true if Andre Iguodala is out for Game 6 (his status is a game-time decision). McCaw played about 17 minutes a night for the Warriors during the regular season.

However, the idea of taking a second-year player who has not been on a court in six weeks and throwing him into Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals — a win-or-go-fishing game for Golden State — is risky, at best. Don’t expect him to get on the court unless this is a blowout.