The NBA preseason is often a time for lesser known players and guys fighting for a place in the league to shine, but it was mostly about the stars of the Houston Rockets and the Miami Heat, James Harden & Dwight Howard on one side, Dwyane Wade & Chris Bosh on the other, as the two teams clashed in Miami.
Both teams underwent some changes over the offseason that upon the surface probably made them weaker. The Rockets gave up on Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik. The Miami Heat had to see LeBron James go back to Cleveland. They’ve added players, but it’s going to take time before it all fits together, and still, it probably won’t be the same again. For the Rockets, it simply means more time with the ball for Harden and probably Howard.
The Heat won the encounter 90-85, led by 26 points from Dwyane Wade who woke up in the clutch to carry the Heat to victory. Chris Bosh helped out with 22 points as only one other player – Mario Chalmers, finished with double figure scoring on the team, adding 13 points. Norris Cole started next to Wade in the backcourt, scoring 7 points.
For the Rockets, both Harden and Howard finished with 19 points, the only players with more than 8 on their team. Harden had a very strong showing with his outside shooting, including knocked down four 3-pointers. Howard was dominant down low with 7-of-10 from the field and 5-of-7 from the line, adding 9 rebounds and one block.
Unlike a certain kind of trend going around in the league, which is cutting down on the number of 3-pointers, happening with the Lakers and the Timberwolves by maybe spreading to more teams, the Heat and the Rockets rely on spreading the floor and hitting shots from the outside. The Heat attempted 27 3-point attempts, making 29.6% of them. The Rockets, who struggled last season with consistency from beyond the arc, finished with 11-of-33, as almost half the shots were taken (and mostly missed) by Trevor Ariza and Kostas Papanikolaou.
The Rockets are counting on Ariza not just for outside points, but to give this team some sort of defensive upgrade that was missing over the last two years, especially on the perimeter. Harden’s offense is probably less of the question here. Dwight Howard playing like the Orlando Magic player he was from 2008 to 2011 might be more important, especially if he’s able to get help on the defensive side of the ball. On offense, there’s not a whole lot to change about him at this point.
For the Miami Heat, it’ll be interesting to see if this will be another year of decline for Dwyane Wade, with Chris Bosh returning to a leading role for the first time since playing for the Raptors, or will it be a case of resurgence and forgetting about his knee injuries for at least one more year, without too much rest and ailing on the bench. It’s hard seeing the Heat, even with the additions they’ve made, making a run for a fifth straight NBA finals, but a special season from Wade might change a few opinions on the matter.