Miami Heat @ Houston Rockets on 2/28/19

Luckily for the Houston Rockets, their chances of securing a top 3 seed in the Western conference isn’t completely lost just yet. With the Thunders’ recent loses this week to the Kings and Nuggets, OKC now only holds a 2.5 game lead on the Rockets, keeping Houston’s chances of succumbing the Thunder for that spot by season’s end. If they’re successful in doing so, they’ll likely be able to avoid Golden State in the post season until the Western Conference Finals, landing the rematch they’ve so longed for. However, as there are only 22 games left in the regular season (and a tough road trip facing the Celtics and the Raptors in the coming days), the Rockets really need to win games like the one they’ll have tonight at home against Miami if they have serious aspirations to successfully “run it back” and win against their Oakland rivals.

While the Miami Heat aren’t exactly in the same draft lottery seeking stratosphere as some of the other Eastern Conference teams currently outside the playoff picture, matters certainly haven’t been looking too sunny down in South Beach this season. The Heat were on the brink of riding a wave of 4 consecutive loses, until Dwyane Wade put up a herculean effort last night at home against the Warriors, that included a buzzer beater to take down the reigning champs. Apart from tired legs due to a pretty hectic schedule over the past couple of weeks, the Heat have also been battling two of the biggest hurdles to an NBA team’s success – consistency and injuries. The Heat are currently devoid of a big name star player, but many of their valuable role players (Dragic, James Johnson, Waiters) have been injured for a good portion of the season, and most members of their squad have trouble putting together consistently strong performances, leading to more Ls stacking up in the loss column. Cool note, though, in addition to his game winner last night, Dwyane Wade hasn’t been doing too shabby recently in his final season, and even though he doesn’t start and is the ancient NBA age of 37 years old, has been averaging an astounding 17.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg, and 4.2 apg over his last 10 games.

Despite all of their deficiencies, if there’s one team the Rockets need to continue to their run of slightly above average rebounding since the return of Capela (52.3 rpg over last 3 games compared to 50.4 on the season), it’s the Miami Heat. The Rockets have done a great job over the last few games of crashing the boards, but against the Miami Heat, who are currently a top 5 rebounding team in the league, they will certainly need to continue that trend and then some. Moreover, the last time the rockets played the Heat at the end of December, apart from Eric Gordon and Harden having great individual nights, the Rockets put up a pretty pitiful offensive display, shot terribly from 3 point land, and shot even worse from the field. To fully take care of business tonight, they need to continue to have multiple members of their rotation contribute to the scoring load, as the team has seemed to have a more balanced offensive spread since the return from the All Star Break (evidenced by their improved assists numbers and bench scoring in the 3 games since). If the Rockets can put in another balanced offensive game from the majority of the rotation of the team, continue to crash the boards, and don’t get lazy on the defensive end, they should be able to take the travel weary Heat on the road.

Prediction: Rockets 115 – Heat 103

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