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Howard, Houston pass first test with win over Miami

Mar 5, 2014, 12:54 AM EDT

Miami Heat v Houston Rockets Getty Images

Houston passed the first test.

The Rockets NBA’s have the best record since Jan. 1 (19-6 coming into Tuesday night) but a lot of that came against soft competition. That was the easy part, the next couple weeks come a series of tests against the league’s best — from that we’ll get a better sense of just how legitimate this Rockets team is. (Technically you could say they didn’t pass the first test, losing to the Clippers last week.)

They looked legit on Tuesday — they attacked mismatches, got balanced offense and never trailed to the Miami Heat on their way to a 106-103 victory at home.

Miami was on the second night of a back-to-back and it showed at points. LeBron James looked like a guy who had expended 61 points of energy the night before and had 22 points on 9-of-18 shooting, plus he went scoreless in the fourth quarter.

To add to his painful night, late in the game he got hit in the face (there were some reports that LeBron re-broke his nose but that has been shot down by the team). It was on a play late where, down three with 13 seconds left the Heat were trying to defend with pressure and force a turnover. They did, James Harden threw an ill-advised pass down court to Howard, LeBron went up for the steal and in so got an inadvertent elbow from Howard in the face.

Immediately after that he tried to take a game-tying step-back three with the broken nose — on the switch Dwight Howard was on him but that worked for Houston because LeBron needed a three and Howard is mobile enough and long enough that he could contest anything. The shot missed.

Miami’s problem wasn’t LeBron. He also saw doubles but when he passed out guys were not knocking down shots. Chris Bosh was 1-of-5 on the night and just seemed to coast through the game. The only guy to really step up was Michael Beasley, who had 24 off the bench.

Houston went right at the two weaknesses of the Miami, getting points out of their center and point guards.

Howard had another strong game — 22 points on 13 shots, plus 16 rebounds. He was also 6-of-8 from the free throw line, pretty much negating the hack-a-Howard idea.

At the point Patrick Beverly had 19 points on 6-of-12 shooting, hitting 5-of-8 from three (he struggled shooting once he ventured inside the arc). He also was his pesky self on defense all night, even harassing (and annoying) LeBron at points. James Harden had 21; Terrence Jones added 19 points and 12 boards.

What the Rockets really had was balance — all five starters scored in double digits. The Rockets shot 51.3 percent on one of the better defensive teams in the NBA (when they want to be). Houston attacked with 33 shots at the rim but they were also 7-of-11 from the midrange as everything seemed to fall for them.

Starting Friday the Rockets schedule is: Indiana, Portland, at Oklahoma City, at Chicago, at Miami. That’s a heck of a challenge.

But the Rockets passed the first test.

  1. ufools - Mar 5, 2014 at 1:01 AM

    They lost the test against the Clips last week.

    • casualcommenter - Mar 5, 2014 at 1:16 AM

      Also, the regular season is an 82 game marathon where virtually all teams go through ups and downs. This wasn’t the Rockets’ “first test” of either this season or the recent hot stretch (losses to the Clippers and Warriors come to mind).

      It was a good win that I enjoyed watching, but not much more than that.

    • beach305 - Mar 5, 2014 at 10:34 AM

      I gave Miami 50-50 to win this game, because of the overnight cross county flight and after playing 40mins the night before.

      They were flat

  2. casualcommenter - Mar 5, 2014 at 1:24 AM

    Good win for the Rockets.

    Everybody except Beverly and Beasley was cold from beyond the arc, and both sides got around 20 points from free throws, so this was a game that was settled in the paint.
    The Heat got much of their paint points in transition early but once those transition points became harder to come by, their offense stalled whenever the Rockets’ starters were in the game. Meanwhile, Howard was able to get touches in the paint despite the Heat’s attempts to front him in the post, and Harden was able to break down the Heat’s defense off the dribble despite Wade playing after a day of rest.

    What kept the Heat in this game was their bench embarrassing Houston’s bench, which is a worry going forward against deeper teams in the West like the Spurs. Still, the starters played good defense in the second half, which is great against a terrific offensive team like the Heat.

    • casualcommenter - Mar 5, 2014 at 1:27 AM

      And of course, my comment talking about the game in depth for a few sentences is being filtered by the site despite no inappropriate words or links.
      Meanwhile, trolls post their comments without getting filtered all the time. Whatever.

      • money2long - Mar 5, 2014 at 8:26 AM

        I got filtered 100 times when I went against biased hypocritical heat fans yesterday. Good thing the Dominique story was written.

      • miamatt - Mar 5, 2014 at 10:11 AM

        Considering how many of your angry troll posts did get through, it’s terrifying to then contemplate how many you actually did write…

        And everybody who posts regularly gets filtered regularly, often without apparent rhyme or reason.

      • miamatt - Mar 5, 2014 at 10:11 AM

        ^^^^^ meant as reply for the above comment.

      • money2long - Mar 5, 2014 at 1:11 PM

        keep in mind i wasnt angry at lebron, angry at you heat fans and other lebron fans

        the end

  3. timb12 - Mar 5, 2014 at 1:28 AM

    Now is the time of the regular season when teams start finding their groove, no one is saying the Rockets are coming out of the west just on this win, but it’s a nice building block for a young team. I know they recently lost to the Clippers, along with other teams, but like it’s been said here, it’s an 82 game season. You can’t win/lose them all.

  4. mitchem85 - Mar 5, 2014 at 2:36 AM

    Someone give me a call and talk to me when the regular season is over…

  5. spg3081 - Mar 5, 2014 at 3:17 AM

    @mitchem85

    What’s your phone number pal? I’ll enter a reminder to call you after the regular season ends.

  6. apkyletexas - Mar 5, 2014 at 7:33 AM

    “Chris Bosh was 1-of-5 on the night and just seemed to coast through the game.”

    Isn’t that line just a copy-and-paste from most of his other games? Mr. Softy – Indiana’s going to chew right through him this year.

  7. edwardemanuelson - Mar 5, 2014 at 7:33 AM

    It pains this Spurs fan to say that the only team I see taking down the Rockets is possibly OKC.

  8. miamatt - Mar 5, 2014 at 10:13 AM

    Nice win for the Rockets. Miami hung in there and had a chance to tie on the final possession, but Houston definitely earned this win. I’ll look forward to the rematch next week.

  9. aboogy123456 - Mar 5, 2014 at 10:34 AM

    I think houston is one of the toughest matchups for miami because they have someone who can dominate inside (dwight), and shoot the three very well. I think those are things that bother miami a lot and i’m not surprised to see houston win this game.

  10. bballhistorian - Mar 5, 2014 at 10:49 AM

    This Houston/Miami game reminded me of the 90s Houston/Bulls games, where although the Bulls were a championship team, Houston had a winning record against them due to the matchup problems and their big man inside.

    This won’t mean much, however, bc although Miami could get out of the East this yr, Houston is not getting out of the west as long as the Clippers are in their way.

    • au1978 - Mar 5, 2014 at 11:56 AM

      Let’s revisit your comment in the playoffs. I could name a couple teams who could take the Rockets down in 7 games but LA isn’t one of them.

      • jimsjam33 - Mar 6, 2014 at 1:42 AM

        Yeah you’re right !

        It would only take the Clips five games to dispose of a team they’ve shut out three times this season already .

  11. kb2408 - Mar 5, 2014 at 11:48 AM

    Fools gold. The Rockets are a good team but in the playoffs they will get exposed for what they truly are: a weak defensive team and one that lacks a “true” game changer (Kobe or Wade in their primes… LBJ or KD now).

    • au1978 - Mar 5, 2014 at 11:59 AM

      Again, we’ll revisit this comment in the playoffs. The Rockets are top 7 offense AND defense. Their own real liability right now is their bench, whom I expect will get their act together by the playoffs.

  12. thenew013 - Mar 5, 2014 at 12:23 PM

    I like this Rockets team I think they have a lot of really good pieces. Harden literally almost threw the game away with that pass but It kinda worked out b/c LJ got rocked by a superman elbow. That was a tough game. Guys were definitely playing hard. Cant wait for the playoffs.

  13. Miami305 - Mar 5, 2014 at 6:43 PM

    This win for the Rockets means nothing. Miami almost came back and beat them with the tank half full. With a full tank of energy Houston doesn’t have a chance; neither do any of the other NBA pretenders.

  14. jimsjam33 - Mar 6, 2014 at 1:48 AM

    First test ?

    Regular season games count for one thing only . A win or a loss . They are not a test and count absolutely nothing when the play-offs start . Nice win for the Rockets though .

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