The Miami Heat will play against the Houston Rockets on Tuesday night in what could potentially be a March preview of the NBA Finals. Just one night after Lebron “The Mask” James hung 61 points on the Charlotte Bobcats, the Heat travel to Houston to take on one of the hottest teams in the West.
Both the Miami Heat and Houston Rockets find themselves in the midst of playing incredible basketball. The Heat have shredded Eastern Conference competition this year, especially during their eight game winning streak. With the Indiana Pacers as the only team to chase in their conference, it would seem the Heat are playing for home court advantage in the playoffs. But fans shouldn’t forget that the eight game winning streak began against Western conference competition. In a brutal roadtrip, the Miami Heat took down Phoenix, Golden State, Dallas, and Oklahoma City. All four are playoff bound teams.
Miami continues their road tests against the Western conference elite by taking on a Houston Rockets team that has won 11 of their last 13 games. Though their schedule has been softer than that of the Heat, they have looked fantastic in their wins and both losses have been close games. The Houston Rockets are one of five teams battling for home court advantage in the West, only separated by four and a half games. As the season enters the last quarter, the race in the Western Conference will be fun to watch.
|1||Oklahoma City||45||15||.750||–||25-6||20-9||9-5||27-9||105.1||98.6||+6.5||Won 2||6-4|
|2||San Antonio||43||16||.729||1 ½||21-8||22-8||9-3||25-10||104.0||98.0||+6.0||Won 3||7-3|
|4||LA Clippers||41||20||.672||4 ½||25-5||16-15||5-4||24-11||107.2||100.8||+6.5||Won 4||7-3|
|5||Houston||40||19||.678||4 ½||23-7||17-12||9-4||23-16||106.4||101.9||+4.6||Won 1||8-2|
We know the Miami Heat have what it takes to reach the NBA Finals, but what about the Houston Rockets? Offense and rebounding are the two biggest strenghts for the Rockets. Even their interior defense has been boosted with the acquisition of Dwight Howard, who seems to be enjoying the quieter media pace of Houston compared to Los Angeles. Perimeter defense is really the struggle for the Rockets. Outside of James Harden, they have been average at best on defense in the half court. Their up and down style lends itself to a lot of scoring and less focus on getting stops on the perimeter. They rank 19th in the league in opponent scoring.
Seeding in the playoffs will be absolutely critical for the Houston Rockets. If they remain in the four or five spot by the time the season concludes, they face a difficult, uphill battle to even make it into the second round. Houston needs to keep up their winning ways in the regular season to position themselves to take on a Western team outside of the top five (if they draw the Warriors it will be no walk in the park either).
Tuesday night’s matchup will pit two of the best teams in the NBA against each other, regardless of whether they face in the Finals or not. And if they do manage to make it to June, it will be an interesting preview of things to come. Who do you think would win in a best of seven series between the Miami Heat and Houston Rockets?
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