Harden matched his single-game high for assists while the
shorthanded Houston Rockets snapped a three-game losing skid with a
115-102 win over the Miami Heat on Tuesday night at Toyota Center.
Harden scored a game-high 26 points, but it was his 14 assists that
were particularly noteworthy. He recorded eight assists to
complement his 17 points prior to intermission, seemingly doing
everything the Rockets (26-25) needed to keep the Heat at bay until
their defense got going. Managing dual roles isn't unusual for
Harden, but it's striking still.
"He plays the game beautifully," Rockets interim coach J.B.
Bickerstaff said. "His skillset, I think, is underappreciated by a
lot of people. People see the scoring, scoring, scoring, but they
don't see the plays that he makes for his teammates. They don't see
the passes that he makes time and time again, how he creates for his
"He's one of the guys who's in a rare group in our league who can do
whatever the game calls upon that night. He's one of the few guys
that can do it, and he does it well."
With centers Dwight Howard (suspension) and Clint Capela (thigh
contusion) unavailable, forward Josh Smith filled the void in the
middle and finished with a season-high 19 points. Enigmatic forward
Terrence Jones added 11 points and seven rebounds off the bench to
help flesh out the depleted big-man rotation while reserve guard
Marcus Thornton scored 18 points in 22 minutes, including hitting 4
of 7 3-pointers.
All five Miami (27-22) starters scored in double figures. Guards
Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic had 16 and 14 points, respectively. The
starting frontline of Luol Deng, Chris Bosh and Amar'e Stoudemire
combined for 44 points and 25 rebounds. Rookie forward Justise
Winslow, making his professional debut in his hometown, had 11
points, eight boards and three steals as Miami had its four-game
winning streak snapped.
"They had the game they wanted," Wade said. "Get out and get some
easy transition and shoot 3s. That's their game."
Miami led by as many as eight points in the first quarter before
Thornton, Harden and forward Corey Brewer paced a frenetic close to
the period. Thornton opened the surge with a 3 and added another one
with 11.6 seconds left to knot the game at 31-31 entering the
Wade and Deng scored in transition following consecutive Houston
turnovers late in the second quarter before Harden keyed a 13-0
blitz bridging the halves, delivering a step-back jumper and then a
3 over Winslow with 0.6 seconds left in the second for a 60-55
[to top of second column]
"We allowed them to really run out and play the game in transition,"
Bosh said. "They shot the ball well. We talked about it before the
game and we had a lot of turnovers (17)."
Houston scored the opening eight points in the third quarter to
seize control for good, with Smith adding two 3-pointers during a
blitz that extend the lead to 71-57. Harden had 11 points and four
assists in the third alone, his trey with 30.7 seconds left stifling
the last Miami run.
The Heat shot just 24 of 64 (37.5 percent) following a breakout
first quarter and finished with 46 points in the paint after netting
22 in the opening period. While things slowed for Miami offensively
there was no slowing Harden, whose blend of passing and scoring
"When guys are making shots, guys are getting in rhythm and getting
comfortable then it's easier for me," Harden said of producing 14
assists for a third time in his career. "Tonight was a really good
example of that. Guys got off, guys made some easy buckets and I
filled in from there."
NOTES: Rockets C Dwight Howard was suspended for Tuesday night's
game against the Heat after making contact with an official last
Saturday against the Wizards. Howard was ejected with 8:08 remaining
after his second technical foul. During the skirmish, he pushed the
arm of referee Mitchell Ervin. Rockets interim coach J.B.
Bickerstaff was fined $10,000 by the league for criticizing the
officials after that game. ... Heat C Hassan Whiteside missed his
sixth consecutive game with a left hip strain. ... Rockets F/C
Donatas Motiejunas was recalled from Rio Grande Valley of the
D-League but will not see action with Houston until he has recovered
from the back injury that has limited him to 14 games this season.
Motiejunas will continue to play for the Vipers until he has
reclaimed prime health and conditioning.
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