Two of the remaining undefeated teams in the NBA go head to head as the Miami Heat face off against the Houston Rockets with an interesting star matchup – James Harden against Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard against Chris Bosh.
The star power for both teams is definitely at the shooting guard and center positions, but it’s possible that the two small forwards will be the most important players in this game. Trevor Ariza arrived via free agency from Washington to Houston, making his return to the Rockets. He might not be as expensive as Chandler Parsons, but so far his numbers are just as good, with improved defense compared to the now-Mavs player.
Ariza is averaging 17.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. He might get minutes guarding Dwyane Wade, but his main assignment will be Luol Deng, who is a similar player to Ariza, although he didn’t come as highly regarded this offseason because of a bad time with the Cavs, not to mention filling in the impossible shoes of LeBron James. Deng is doing well so far with 15 points a night. He didn’t do too well against the Rockets when the two teams met in the preseason, scoring four points on 2-of-7 from the field.
But while these guys might be the X-factors for two teams built in a similar way, probably by chance, the focus will be on the scoring of Chris Bosh and Wade on one side, Harden and Howard on the other. Bosh almost signed with the Rockets during the summer but decided to stay for a massive extension, repaying that faith with 25.7 points and 11.3 rebounds per game, superstar numbers some forgot he can produce.
Dwyane Wade as expected took a lesser deal compared to the past, and is doing well with the ball moving through him a lot more than last season. He’s averaging 16.3 points and 6.7 assists, sharing the backcourt load with upstart Norris Cole, showing he’s just as efficient and maybe even more as a starter. Mario Chalmers has been relegated to the bench, but gets a better role with the second unit, not longer the other guy on LeBron’s lineup.
Harden has a touch on almost every possession for the Rockets, averaging 27.8 points per game. He is also grabbing 6.3 rebounds and adding 6.8 assists a night. LeBron James-like numbers only without the efficiency, shooting only 37.3% from the field so far this season. Dwight Howard has been a lot more efficient at over 60% from the field, but he’s scoring just 15 points per game, taking less than 10 shots an night while hitting only 42.4% of his free throw shots up to this point.