Heat Check: Game goes south quickly for Miami against red-hot Rockets

The Miami Heat played the Houston Rockets evenly for one quarter Saturday night but then proceeded to get blown out 115-79 at the Toyota Center.

Miami was plagued by turnovers and sloppy play from the start but went on an early 9-2 run largely due to the efforts of Luol Deng and held a modest lead at the conclusion of the opening quarter.

But the game quickly went out of reach in the second quarter once Dwight Howard got going inside the paint combined with James Harden, Patrick Beverley and Corey Brewer getting hot from long range. The Heat could not counter the Rockets’ firepower and compounded the issue with poor passing that was picked off several times, which led to fast-break opportunities.

A day after getting blown out 111-83 by the New Orleans Pelicans — during which Rockets head coach Kevin McHale benched his starters early in the second half — Houston’s main unit sat out most of the fourth quarter with the game decided once they opened up a 28-point lead in the third. The Heat were outscored 33-11 in the quarter.

No Heat player shot well from the field, and the team was led by 15 points from both Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, but they shot a combined 9 of 23 from the field to get to those totals. Hassan Whiteside was the Heat’s lone bright spot with 14 points (6-of-6 shooting) and five rebounds, though most of his points were scored in garbage time.

The defeat hands the Heat their second four-game losing streak of the season and drops their road record to 5-5. Though it was an ugly loss, the team survived a major health scare when Chris Andersen stepped awkwardly on the foot of a Rockets player and limped off to the training room. He returned to the floor minutes later and showed no ill effects from the injury.

THE TURNING POINT

A 15-2 run by the Rockets in the second quarter — featuring 11 consecutive points in one stretch — was too much for the Heat to overcome and marked the beginning of the rout.

THE DIFFERENCE MAKER

Andersen and Whiteside tried their best but could not contain Howard in the paint. He went scoreless in the first quarter but then powered his team’s game-shifting run with 19 points in the second quarter alone — many of which were a product of superior positioning by the rim. He finished with 23 points and 13 rebounds in 26 minutes.

STAT OF THE GAME

Heat vs. Rockets

The Rockets outscored the Heat 71-33 combined in the second and third quarters, including a back-breaking 28-4 run.

WHAT’S NEXT

Miami will host the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday at 6 p.m.

You can follow Surya Fernandez on Twitter @SuryaHeatNBA or email him at SuryaFoxSports@gmail.com.