No earthly experience quite approximates the hushed terror of being the victim of a modern American horror film/corn-syrup-fest as playing the Miami Heat. Like the overly eager young lover or naive tourist watching him or herself picked apart methodically, completely conscious of the evil being inflicted, those who must suit up against Miami try, struggle― even valiantly― and eventually die, gutted and spent. Last night, as great of a game as it appeared at times for the Rockets, could be no different.
If any of the murderers were more guilty than the others, Dwyane Wade and his actions would obviously be judged most heinous. His almost comical penetration and permanent seat at the front of the rim allowed him to stack up NBA Jam numbers, producing an ungodly 45 points on 24 shots and throwing in six boards for good measure. For the third time this year, a combo guard shredded any vestige of a defense that once prided itself on not being beaten by one man by scoring over 40 points, and the ease with which last night’s disemboweling occurred made the scene all the more gristly. Commentators, both on screen and next to me (my father and my best friend, respectively, ever present for big games and opportunities to prove each of us knows more than the other), consistently argued that the Heat just had “one of those nights”, the kind where everything falls, as was evidenced by Miami’s squeaky-clean 58% clip from the field; however, I remember the layup line that took place in the (non-) painted area Wednesday night. Six-footers tend to fall at a much better rate than those shots taken from farther away, and the Rockets cannot help but have their lunches eaten in the middle, lacking a real post presence outside of the in-all-ways flighty Jordan Hill. This will likely be a league-wide issue as the Heat further coalesce into the foreboding Galactus-esque devourer of worlds all NBA fans outside of South Beach secretly sobbed in fear of (and publicly decried) this summer, so Houston finds itself in good (read: endless) company. In fact, the Rockets actually did well enough last night to understand that what is Miami’s horrific, awe-inspiring strength on one end of the court doubles as its embarrassingly well known Achilles heel on the other end: penetration (and stop chuckling… now).
As the Rockets feebly grabbed for rebounds around the titans’ shoulders (note that the Rockets sent their tallest starter, a 6’9″ power forward, to tipoff against a 7’4″ elderly man and easily, and reasonably, lost the tip), it was only fitting that Houston’s own pillar was the shortest man on the court, the hilariously ballsy Aaron Brooks, giantkiller extraordinaire. His 20 and 9 line stands out quite prominently among his performances since returning from injury, but his determination to work the middle against Miami kept it on its heels, if not quite at bay. Because of his Argentinian-induced-absence, Brooks had not shared the court with Brad Miller very often, and though it may have only accounted for four or six points, their combination made Miami reevaluate its entire defensive strategy. Unluckily for Houston, it did just that.
The Rockets cannot quite hang with Miami in the talent department, a fact anyone not wearing Rockets red (and maybe a few who do) would have told you prior to last night, and Houston’s effort should be applauded. As Wade incinerated the very fundamentals of the Houston defense, less prideful squads would have simply folded. Too bad the bloodletting becomes all the more horrifying when you’re powerless to stop it.
Houston Rockets 119, Miami Heat 125
On to the (not-so-daily) links later in the day.