Coming off the best scoring performance of his career, LeBron James looked very ordinary against the Houston Rockets as the Miami Heat lost 103-106 with some terrible defense throughout the game and a big night for James Harden and Dwight Howard on the other end.
Howard led the scoring with 22 points and had 16 rebounds. For a bonus, he landed an elbow in James’ face as the Rockets nearly through the game away thanks to the lack of thinking displayed by James Harden on the team’s final possession. According to James, that elbow might have re-broken his nose, mask or no mask to protect him.
James finished the game with 22 points and 6 assists, shooting 9-of-18. He struggled all through the second half, not scoring at all in the fourth quarter, and seems to have been a little bit out of ammo after being completely unstoppable against the Bobcats. He had a buzzer-beating 3-point shot at the end of the third quarter cancelled. It could have gone either way, but it looked like the red light went up while the ball was still in James’ fingertips.
He had a chance to tie the game with a final shot after Harden, with all of his wisdom, decided to throw the ball towards Dwight Howard on the final possession. The Heat didn’t look to make a foul but simply played defense, and Houston were so preplexed by that, Harden had to throw the ball out of bounds. James didn’t get a good enough shot, and missed his third 3-pointer of the night to end the game.
The Heat did make a nice comeback in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough. Dwyane Wade led the team with 24 points and Michael Beasley showed what kind of contribution he can have off the bench scoring 24 as well, but Chris Bosh struggled against Dwight Howard and the Heat couldn’t make their shots from the outside, looking a bit slow with their ball movement compared to usual, not creating enough open looks.
Houston aren’t exactly defensive juggernauts, but they have their days in which even Harden puts in an effort on the perimeter. They made it difficult for the Heat to make shots from the outside (7-of-27 from beyond the arc), and made just one (with higher percentage) themselves, most of that long range offense coming from Patrick Beverley, who was 5-of-8 from 3-point range.
It’s hard to put a finger on why the Heat lost. They turned the ball over less and didn’t allow Houston to dominate them on the boards. But the Heat’s defense was a bit slow and the Rockets too advantage of that enough times in order to build tow nice leads in the first and third quarters. It came down to LeBron James being unable to convert this time.
This was something of a declaration game for the Rockets, who seem to be on the verge of being taken seriously as championship contenders. Beating the Heat, who have been red hot these last four weeks, with Dwyane Wade after a rest, is an impressive declaration of intent.