Rockets ride five-game win streak into Miami
The Rockets, who beat the Washington Wizards 136-118 on Wednesday night, have tied their season high with five straight wins heading into Thursday’s game in Miami.
Houston (16-14) also set an NBA record with 26 three-pointers in the win over Washington.
The Wizards double-teamed Rockets superstar guard James Harden, but the plan backfired as he finished with a game-high 35 points and a team-high nine assists.
Still, Harden isn’t in a great mood these days.
“We’re in a hole,” Harden, the reigning NBA MVP, said of the Rockets, who are off to a slow start after reaching the Western Conference Finals last season. “We’re not where we’re supposed to be, and, if you look at the standings, it stinks.”
Miami (13-16) will likely use 6-6 guard Josh Richardson on Harden as the Heat attempt to win their third straight game for the first time this season.
The Heat will be without starting point guard Goran Dragic, who had surgery on his right knee on Wednesday and is expected to miss the next eight weeks.
Dragic, who has missed 12 of Miami’s past 14 games due to knee pain, could return right after the Feb. 17 NBA All-Star Game.
In addition, Miami shooting guard Dion Waiters, who has yet to play this season due to an ankle injury, has been cleared for full-speed practices. He won’t play against Houston but could return soon.
Two other Heat injuries of note belong to guard Tyler Johnson, who is probable despite a headache issue, and forward Justise Winslow, who is questionable because of a sprained ankle.
Miami, which has had three straight days without a game, should be the more rested team. Houston will be playing on consecutive nights.
The Rockets, who swept the Heat in their two-game, regular-season series last season, is 7-9 on the road this season. Miami, though, is just 5-9 at home.
Houston has just one injury. Small forward James Ennis (right hamstring) is set to miss his fifth straight game. He is Houston’s sixth-leading scorer at 8.0 points per game.
Harden, of course, is Houston’s best player. He leads the team in scoring (31.5) and assists (8.2) while averaging 5.8 rebounds. He also averaged 34.5 points in the two games against Miami last season.
“(Harden) is the best offensive player I’ve ever seen — seriously,” Rockets teammate Chris Paul said. “He can shoot. He can handle. Whoever guards him — it’s going to be a tough night.”
Richardson, who will get that tough assignment, leads Miami in scoring (18.6), and Miami center Hassan Whiteside leads the NBA in blocks (2.88) and ranks third in rebounds (13.3).
However, Houston’s speed, quickness and three-point shooting could take Whiteside off his game.
Dragic leads Miami in assists (4.9), and his decision to have knee surgery gave Heat coach Erik Spoelstra some clarity.
“It was frustrating for him, not knowing what was going on,” Spoelstra said. “Now, at least, there’s a solution (with the surgery).”
Heat guard Dwyane Wade, who has had three knee surgeries and is playing his final NBA season before heading off to retirement, said he has tried to help Dragic cope with this injury.
“Injuries are a part of the game, but they (stink),” Wade said. “When you have your starting point guard go down, it hurts.”