During a season which has had quite a tumultuous beginning, positives for the Miami Heat are few and far between. The Heat sit at 14th in the Eastern Conference standings, with only the Brooklyn Nets behind them. Numerous injuries combined with underwhelming performances have created a rocky season start where evaluating talent has come to the forefront.
However, Tuesday night’s win over the Houston Rockets showed the capabilities of the team when most of its strongest pieces are healthy. In a 109-103 win, Miami had six players score in double figures. The group was led by point guard Goran Dragic, who notched 21 points, eight rebounds and eight assists on a clean 8 of 15 from the floor. Amidst ongoing trade rumors surrounding the 30-year-old Slovenian guard, he continues to perform at a level as high as any previous point in his career.
Other contributors included Wayne Ellington, the three-point specialist who knocked down five shots beyond-the-arc en route to an 18 point performance. Although injuries kept the journeyman veteran out of the lineup for much of the beginning of the season, Ellington has carved out a nice role off the bench for the team, averaging 11 points and 1.8 rebounds per contest.
Overall the Heat bench outscored the Rockets bench 51-42, led by strong performances from Ellington, guard Tyler Johnson and forward James Johnson. The two Johnsons combined for 31 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.
While the two teams generated enough offense to get over the 100 point mark, it was the defense that really made the difference. Miami held the Rockets to just 40 percent shooting the entire night and to only 23 percent from downtown.
James Harden had yet another triple double, scoring 40 while handing out 10 assists and grabbing 12 boards. The eight year veteran out of Arizona State got his 13th triple double on the year, but struggled to find consistency shooting the ball, only hitting four of his 15 attempts from behind the three point line. Sixth man Eric Gordon also had a hard time finding his shot, hitting only three of his 17 field goal attempts.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra gushed about how strongly his team played against a top playoff contender such as Houston.
Miami center Hassan Whiteside continues to look strong after returning from injury just four games ago, scoring 14 while crashing the glass for 15 rebounds.
The Rockets end their three game road trip with a clash with the Milwaukee Bucks Wednesday night at 8:00 p.m.
The Heat continue a four-game home stand with a game against the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday night, a rematch of two previous NBA finals. However, both teams are in completely different states now, as Dallas is 14-27. Both teams will be looking to salvage their season before it’s too late. Tip off begins at 7:30 p.m.