Heat send Rockets back to earth

December 21, 2018
Josh Richardson
Josh Richardson

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - The Miami Heat snapped Houston’s five-game NBA winning streak with a 101-99 victory on Thursday in a game that saw Rockets point guard Chris Paul injured again.

The Rockets, coming off an 18-point victory over Washington on Wednesday in which they set a single-game record with 26 three-pointers, were leading 45-37 in the second quarter when Paul, diving to regain control of the ball, clutched his left thigh and quickly departed.

The Rockets later said Paul had a left hamstring strain and wouldn’t return.

“It’ll be some time,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said of Paul, who is scheduled for an MRI exam on Friday.

The defeat and injury were a double-blow for a Rockets team that had looked to be turning the corner after a slow start to the season.

With five straight wins they had risen from 14th to seventh in the Western Conference in the space of a week. But the loss of Paul could prove particularly damaging.

They lost games six and seven of the Western Conference finals last season after Paul suffered a right hamstring injury.

“It’s part of the game,” Harden said of adjusting to life without Paul. “You’ve got to figure it out. Injuries happen — opportunities for other guys to step up, keep going.”

Josh Richardson led the Heat with 22 points. Tyler Johnson added 19 — producing a layup, a big block and a three-pointer to pull the Rockets to a 96-92 lead with less than three minutes remaining.

James Harden led the Rockets with 35 points, 12 assists and six rebounds, climbing off the floor after a frightening fall midway through the fourth quarter to make two free throws that pulled Houston into a 90-89 lead.

But the Rockets couldn’t hang on. Miami star Dwyane Wade missed jump shots on the Heat’s last possession and Houston’s Gerald Green corralled a rebound.

Eric Gordon inbounded to Harden, who passed back to Gordon whose bid for a game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer bounced off the rim.

“We had a lot of opportunities,” Harden said. “We gave them a lot of second chance opportunities, especially in the first half (that) kept them in the game and they made big shots in the end.”