The Miami Heat are slated for their fifth consecutive road matchup against a dominant Houston Rockets squad, who just brought down the Golden State Warriors.It doesn’t bode well whatsoever, in a game that will be their fifth in seven days. The injury bug continues to trek through South Beach, crawling into the Heat locker room and plaguing recent victim and point guard Goran Dragic. Dragic will be out on Monday night’s road game against the Houston Rockets, battling a bruised knee. The injuries are piling up for the Heat at a bad time, who are already down guard Dion Waiters (undergoing season-ending ankle surgery) and guard Tyler Johnson (nursing an ankle injury). This opens up minutes for guard Wayne Ellington, who will be making his first start of the season for the depleted Heat.
This is a terrible time for the Heat to come to the Toyota Center as the Rockets are starting to click on all cylinders and showing the nation that they will not falter during the playoffs. In their past two games, they defeated both the Minnesota Timberwolves and Golden State Warriors by a combined 26 points, led by All-Stars Chris Paul and James Harden.
Preview and Prediction: Miami Heat vs Houston Rockets
The Houston Rocket’s up-tempo spread out offense with a reliance on three-pointers and pick-and-roll plays has been unguardable for opposing teams. They are ranked as the second-best offensive team in the league after Golden State and are even more dangerous on their home turf. They are first in points per game at home, with 117.61. If you cannot stop them, you will have to beat them at their own game by outshooting them.
However, I do not anticipate the Heat to play at the same quick pace, as they want to move the ball and space the floor. Quality spacing is essential in Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra’s offensive schemes. The spacing allows for players to get good shot selection and clean looks. As one player holds the rock, the other four need to move, whether that’s cutting or screening.
They will need to look towards stretch center Kelly Olynck for catch and shoot situations outside of the perimeter to keep Houston’s bigs off balance. He has shown to be a versatile big that has proven himself among top echelon teams. In his return to the Garden, Olynyk scored a career-high 32 points in a rousing return, as the undermanned Heat were able to snag a road win 90-89. Another example is the home game against the Timberwolves in which he scored 23 points on 9-12 shooting, hitting three of five three-pointers.
The Heat’s top scorer and center Hassan Whiteside will also need to play a pivotal role to end their long road trip with a win. In his past three games, he’s been a wrecking ball on the glass and in the paint, averaging a double-double. His counterpart will be Clint Capela, who is off to an outstanding season in 39 games played. He is averaging a double-double, with 14.5 points, and 10.8 rebounds.
The backcourt duo of All-Stars James Harden and Chris Paul alongside rising centerCapela has literally been unstoppable, boasting an undefeated record of 17-0 when playing together. James Harden will feast off this short-handed Heat squad, who will have long-time journeyman Wayne Ellington most likely guarding him. Harden and Capela are also a deadly pick and roll tandem, who will display glimpses of lob city in the Toyota Center. Harden will resume his MVP style of play and get all his three-point specialists around him involved. Rockets will roll and march towards the number one spot in the Western Conference.