Dwight Howard posted 22 points and 16 rebounds, James Harden tallied 21 points and 11 assists and the Houston Rockets held off the Miami Heat, 106-103, at the Toyota Center on Tuesday night, snapping the Heat's eight-game winning streak.
The Rockets led by as much as 15 in this one, and Miami never led.
Houston got off to an extremely quick start, hanging 39 points on Miami in the first quarter. The Heat defense then tightened up in the second period, holding the Rockets to 14. Still, Houston led by one at the half, and in the third, it built a 15-point lead that Miami was never able to fully recover from.
Spoelstra says he "doesn't know" what happened defensively in third quarter. Not pleased with effort.— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) March 5, 2014
Dwyane Wade and Michael Beasley both scored 24 for the Heat. LeBron James added 22 a night after scoring 61.
The Rockets shot 51.3 percent from the floor, overcoming 18 turnovers which led to 23 Miami points.
Houston also outrebounded the Heat, 46-33.
Both teams missed nine free throws.
Key Player Grades
LeBron James, Small Forward
What would James do for an encore a night after scoring 61?
Well, it looked like we were about to witness another monster performance by LeBron, as he dropped 12 points in the first quarter and 19 in the first half.
He was getting very easy buckets, driving to the basket at will and scoring in transition.
However, in the second half, James was all but invisible.
He scored only three points over the final 24 minutes and missed a long three-pointer that would have tied the game at the end of regulation.
Also, LeBron only logged one rebound in this game.
He gets a bit of a pass because he was almost certainly fatigued, but this wasn't one of James' typical dominant outings.
LeBron: "It just wasn't there for me. I got out of rhythm."— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) March 5, 2014
His final numbers? Twenty-two points off 9-of-18 shooting and six assists.
A great game for almost anyone else? Sure, but players of James' caliber are held to a higher standard.
Dwyane Wade, Shooting Guard
Wade looked like his old self for much of this one, weaving through traffic and drawing fouls for most of the contest.
He scored 24 points off 8-of-15 shooting, going 8-of-12 from the free-throw line. Because he had the night off on Monday, it seemed as if Wade was the No. 1 option offensively for the Heat in this game.
He played 37 minutes and controlled the ball for much of the fourth period, giving LeBron a little bit of a break.
Wade also handed out six assists.
Even though Miami lost, it was a good sign to see Wade so spry.
Chris Bosh, Center
"Abysmal" doesn't even begin to describe Chris Bosh's performance on Tuesday night. He was that bad.
Bosh was absolutely M.I.A. for most of the game, scoring five points and making only one shot. He also had a wide-open mid-range jumper late in the fourth quarter, and his attempt didn't even touch the rim. It clanked off the opposite side of the backboard.
Bosh also grabbed only five rebounds in 27 minutes, as Houston's big men simply ate him alive down low.
Mario Chalmers, Point Guard
This wasn't a night for Mario Chalmers to remember. Well, not in a good way, that is.
Chalmers had a ton of trouble with Patrick Beverley on both ends, getting burned defensively and getting eaten up when he was dribbling the ball out on the perimeter. He also missed a couple of layups.
Rio finished with three points off 1-of-5 shooting and was benched in the fourth quarter.
Shane Battier, Power Forward
There wasn't much doing for Shane Battier in this one.
The crafty veteran scored two points off 1-of-6 shooting, misfiring on all five of his three-point attempts. He blocked a pair of shots, but that was it.
Ray Allen, Sixth Man
Ray Allen had a very nice game, contributing 13 points in 26 minutes.
He went 2-of-5 from beyond the arc, and because the Rockets were forced to respect his shot so much, there were a couple of times where Allen merely dribbled past defenders who were flying out to the three-point line to defend him. The result was a couple of easy floaters for the veteran.
Allen also pulled down four rebounds. He shot 5-of-8 overall.
Michael Beasley was awesome in the loss.
The mercurial youngster poured in 24 points in 28 minutes, going 9-of-13 from the floor and 4-of-7 from downtown. He hit several key threes late to help keep Miami in the game, and he made very smart decisions with the basketball.
Chris Andersen had a significant impact as well, recording five points, seven boards and five blocks in his 20 minutes.
As for Norris Cole, well, let's just say this wasn't one of his better outings. He shot 2-of-7 in 22 minutes.
Thanks to the contributions of Beasley and Andersen, though, Miami's bench earns high marks.
Dwight Howard, Center
You knew coming into this game that Howard was a matchup problem for the Heat, and he showed why.
Howard dominated to the tune of 22 points and 16 rebounds and even shot well from the free-throw line, going 6-of-8 from the stripe.
Also, while he did not have any blocks, Dwight altered countless shots at the rim, including a crucial one by Wade late in the fourth quarter.
Howard shot 8-of-13 overall and only committed two fouls in the win.
James Harden, Shooting Guard
Harden was quiet early on, but he got into a groove in the second half.
Harden scored 14 of his 21 points over the final 24 minutes, demonstrating a dazzling display of step-back jumpers, crossovers and drives as he carved up the Miami defense for easy buckets.
Harden had a great all-around game, registering 11 assists to go along with his scoring output. He also grabbed four boards.
The six turnovers were definitely costly, and that knocks his grade down a little bit, but you have to love the effort by Harden down the stretch of a big game.
Chandler Parsons, Small Forward
Chandler Parsons was relatively quiet in terms of scoring the rock, tallying 10 points off 5-of-10 shooting, but his impact came on the defensive end.
Assigned with the task of defending LeBron, Parsons clamped down in the second half, helping hold the superstar to just three second-half points.
Parsons also did a great job distributing the ball offensively, racking up eight assists.
Sometimes you have to do the little things to help your team win, and Parsons did that on Tuesday night.
Terrence Jones, Power Forward
Some 22-year-olds would be scared of the moment in a game like this.
Not Terrence Jones.
The youngster was incredible in the win, registering 19 points and 12 rebounds. Also, with the game in the balance in the fourth quarter, Jones scored seven straight Rockets points, including a ferocious putback slam right over the top of Andersen.
Jones shot 8-of-13 from the floor and was a presence on both ends in 35 minutes.
This was a huge game for Jones' growth, and he came through. Big time.
Patrick Beverley, Point Guard
Beverley was simply tremendous in this one.
The bulldog of a floor general posted 19 points and three steals and played absolutely vicious defense, getting up in the chest of Chalmers and Cole and even getting physical with James on the perimeter during a couple of sequences late in the game.
Kevin McHale on @patbev21: "He's a junkyard dog, man. He just goes out and plays hard all the time."— ClutchFans (@clutchfans) March 5, 2014
Beverley drained five triples, three of those coming in the first quarter that helped set the tone.
His energy was contagious and helped ignite several Houston runs.
Even though Beverley's stat sheet looks solid, it doesn't really describe just how sensational he was in this game.
He went 6-of-12 from the field overall.
Jeremy Lin, Sixth Man
Jeremy Lin's struggles continued on Tuesday night.
The reserve guard went 2-of-5 from the floor and scored seven points. He also had an extremely careless turnover where he simply lost the ball out of bounds when bringing it up the floor.
Lin went 1-of-4 from distance and didn't register an assist in 15 minutes.
He needs to get his confidence back, because it seems like he's playing scared at the moment.
There really aren't many good things to say about Houston's bench after this one.
The Rockets' reserves continually gave away leads that the starters built, and they kept slowing the game down to the dismay of the crowd at the Toyota Center.
Jordan Hamilton scored four points off 1-of-3 shooting, and Donatas Motiejunas went 0-of-5 and took some awful shots.
It's a good thing the starters were good.
What's Next for the Heat?
It gets even tougher.
The Heat will play the San Antonio Spurs on the road Thursday, a Spurs team that is now healthy and itching for payback after the 113-101 loss Miami handed it back on Jan. 26.
Then on Sunday, the Heat will travel to the United Center to play a Chicago Bulls ballclub that genuinely despises them.
It should be an interesting weekend for Miami.
What's Next for the Rockets?
The Rockets get a cupcake on Wednesday night against the Orlando Magic, but they will then embark on a brutal five-game stretch featuring home games against the Indiana Pacers and Portland Trail Blazers followed by three road matchups with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Bulls and...the Heat.
This represents a great test for Houston, a team that has been playing outstanding ball in 2014.
It should be interesting to see how it responds.