Tuesday night’s Game of the Night will feature the Miami Heat in the lone star state against a top Western Conference team. While fans are used to seeing the Heat play important games in Texas against the San Antonio Spurs and the Dallas Mavericks in recent years, this time they are facing the state’s up and coming premiere team, the Houston Rockets.
This game features an inter-conference matchup between teams that have already reached 40 wins and are battling for position in their respective conferences. To add to the drama, LeBron James scored 61 points Monday night, setting a new career-high and a single-game Miami Heat record. Many eyes will be watching this game not only to watch these two talented teams, but to also see the reigning MVP’s encore.
This is the first of two match ups between the two teams, and they are meeting up when both teams are playing arguably their best basketball of the season. The Heat have won eight straight games, their second longest winning streak this season (they won ten in a row in November) and the Rockets have won 11 of their last 13 games.
A lot of players have been hot for both teams. James has been playing very well in his past ten games, averaging 29.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 2.4 steals per game. He is also shooting 58 percent from the field in that stretch. Dwyane Wade, who sat out of Monday night’s game, has also been playing some of his best basketball of the year, averaging 21 points on 60.9 percent shooting, 5.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists during February, all season-highs during a month of play. Mario Chalmers and Chris Bosh have also played efficient basketball of late for the Heat, shooting 51.4 percent and 52.5 percent respectively over their past ten games.
Like Wade, Dwight Howard and James Harden are coming off of their best month of the season in February for the Rockets. Howard averaged 22.8 points per game on 65.4 percent shooting with 2.5 blocks per game, all monthly bests this season for him. Harden posted his best monthly numbers in four categories last month, averaging 27.9 points on 47.7 percent shooting, 42.3 percent from beyond the arc and 90.4 percent from the free throw line. The Heat rank first in the NBA in field goal percentage and the Rockets rank fourth, so this matchup pins two of the most efficient offenses against each other.
The Pick: Both teams are very good on offense, but have advantages on each other in other aspects of the game. The Rockets average 45.3 rebounds (sixth in the NBA) while the Heat are the worst rebounding team in the NBA (36.8 per game). The Heat, on the other hand, get the second most steals per game in the NBA with 9.1 and the Rockets are second to last in turnovers per game (16.5). These stats show that both teams like to get on the break, rebounds lead to run-outs and so do steals, so this will be a back-and-forth, high-paced game, especially since both teams are particularly weak in areas where the other is strong. It is hard to pick against the Rockets at home, especially when they are playing so well, but the Heat are in the zone right now. Plus, the Rockets are 18-15 against teams over .500 on the season. The Heat? 19-5. They go into Houston and win, 115-108.
When: 8 p.m. ET
Where: Toyota Center, Houston, TX