The Rockets remain undefeated after breaking a five-game losing streak in Miami by beating the Heat 108-91.
The Rockets were on fire early, hitting their first seven consecutive baskets thanks to impressive ball movement, specifically from Kostas Papanikolaou, who checked in early after Donatas Motiejunas (starting for the injured Terrence Jones) got into foul trouble.
Papanikolaou drove into the lane and drew defenders away from Dwight Howard long enough to dump the ball off to the big man for multiple slams. The Rockets finished the first quarter with nine assists on their 10 made field goals.
In the second, Houston went on a nearly eight-minute field goal drought, going from Harden’s three with 2:15 in the first quarter until Canaan’s three with 6:42 left in the second without a bucket. However, they were able to get to the free throw line and Miami could only build a four-point lead during the dry spell.
After scoring 19 in the first half the previous evening in Philadelphia, Trevor Ariza struggled in Miami with only three points on 1-2 FG in the first half. James Harden only hit three shots in the first half (didn’t even attempt a shot until 2:45 in the first), but he attacked the basket and went 10-10 from the free throw line. Harden and Howard tied with 18 points in the half as the Rockets led by two heading to the locker room.
The Rockets came out firing in the third, going on an 11-4 run in the first four minutes punctuated by a beautiful James Harden step back three. The Rockets would get the lead as high as 13 in the third thanks to big corner 3-pointers from Patrick Beverley (who went 4-5 3PTM on the night).
The Heat fought back and closed the quarter on a 7-0 run to cut the Rockets’ lead to six heading to the fourth.
In the fourth, Trevor Ariza proved his first half struggles a fluke as he scored nine in the fourth (19 total) to help the Rockets build as big as a 19-point lead.
James Harden stuffed the box yet again with 25 points, 10 assists, 9 rebounds and 2 blocked shots. Dwight Howard dominated the post with 26 points and 10 boards.
The Rockets return home to face the defending champion San Antonio Spurs on Thursday.