Trailing by 3 with 13 seconds left, the Heat put the game in the hands of the best player in the world, LeBron James, who was being guarded by Chandler Parsons, but after a Chris Bosh screen, the Rockets switched and it became James against Dwight Howard.
“I wanted to keep him with the ball in his left hand and try to make him do a step-back 3 (pointer),” Howard said afterwards.
He executed his plan as James tried to shoot over his out-stretched arm, but the shot went long, sealing the Rockets 106-103 win over the Miami Heat.
“He was the Defensive Player of the Year three times in a row for a reason,” Patrick Beverly said. “If LeBron would’ve made it, it would’ve been a tough shot.”
James was held to just 22 points, three in the second half, a night after lighting up Charlotte for a career-high 61, and he didn’t make a shot from behind the three-point line.
“We had different guys on him,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “We felt that Jordan (Hamilton) could guard him a little bit. Chandler (Parsons) did a nice job on him.”
James scored 12 points in the first quarter, but it was the Rockets who jumped out to an early lead, scoring the game’s first seven points. They led 39-32 after the first 12 minutes of play, but that lead was cut to a point at halftime as Miami scored 13 points off of 12 Houston turnovers to get back in the game, but they couldn’t carry that momentum over to the second half.
Houston started the second half with a 15-4 run and grew their lead to as many as 15 points. It was a 10-point game going into the fourth quarter, and Miami chipped away, eventually tying the game for the first time with 7:39 left. The Heat answered the next two Houston buckets to keep the game tied at 93 with 6:12 to, but then the Rockets made one last run.
It started with a Terrence Jones 3-point play to make it 96-93. Then a James Harden step-back jumper made it a 5-point game, and a Howard layup made it 100-93.
Howard led the Rockets with 22 points and 16 rebounds. All five Rockets starters finished in double figures, two others had double-doubles with Jones chipping in 12 rebounds to go along with 19 points, and Harden adding 11 assists along with 19 points of his own, but the Rockets key player might’ve been Beverly who also scored 19 points, knocking down five three-pointers for the second straight night, and he did it against one of his old teams.
“I was cut by the Heat, so this was a very emotional game for me,” he said. “I’m shocked I was able to keep my composure.”
The win gets the Rockets to 41-19; they have won all 13 homes games they’ve played against Eastern Conference teams. They won’t have long to enjoy this win though, Wednesday night they’ll be back in action in Orlando.
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