When LeBron James looks for a scoring sidekick, he has Dwyane Wade most of the time ready to put up big scoring numbers; Chris Bosh is in the same boat most of the time. The Miami Heat can count on two or three big time, big play players. The Houston Rockets? James Harden is alone, without anyone capable of matching his scoring abilities on his own team least of all Jeremy Lin.
The Rockets didn’t make life easy for the Heat in Miami, but what was expected earlier on was also what happened in the end, with the Heat winning 114-108. LeBron James scored 32 points, Dwyane Wade added 31 while adding a few more highlight plays to their scrap book to look at when their career is over, while James Harden matched and even beat them with his individual production, scoring 36 points, but couldn’t keep up on his own.
Harden had one of his best games since arriving in Houston, adding 12 rebounds and 7 assists. He did everything right. He played into the paint when necessary, spread the ball when there wasn’t’ a good look for him. But unlike the huge win against the Warriors, Jeremy Lin didn’t keep up with Harden, going only 3-10 from the field to score 13 points. There was no one off the bench to deliver something truly special.
Meanwhile, the Heat got easy points whenever they needed them, even without Chris Bosh. While the rest of the Heat teammates shot from distance, LeBron and Wade made easy work in the paint, on fast breaks or just by slicing through the rather soft Rockets defense. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade shot 85.7% (12-of-14) inside 10 feet Wednesday, their second-highest shooting percentage from such distance this season. Their 12 made field goals inside 10 feet accounted for two-thirds of the Heat’s total made field goals from such distance.
Having James Harden guarding both of them (don’t worry, not at once) didn’t make it so hard as well. Harden is a big guy for a guard, but he’s far from being the best of defenders. Last season with the Thunder he had the support of Ibaka and Perkins behind him. Having to guard Wade and James without that kind of backup isn’t too easy. James and Wade combined to score 23 points on 69.2% from the field when defended by Harden.
They had 140 points last night and tied the NBA record in 3s, so we knew we had to defend the 3, but we made enough plays down the stretch and got enough stops
James Harden showed he learned from the last time the Rockets played the Heat. One of the best players this season when it comes to making plays in isolation, Harden scored 10 points on six possessions, making 75% of his shots in that type of play, but not limiting himself to it, going for the on one on in 23.1% of his possessions. Last time he went to the basket in an iso on 50% of the plays, making only 33% of them.
The Rockets aren’t in this league at the moment. Not when it comes to defense, and not when it comes to finding someone else but James Harden to score and make creative plays. The Miami Heat just proved the same thing everyone knows – their ability to clamp down on D when they have to, and James and Wade having an easy time against a team that can’t guard in the paint.