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.