Both the Houston Rockets and the Miami Heat lost on Friday evening to the NBA champion Golden State Warriors and the Eastern Conference Champion Cleveland Cavaliers, respectively, and both the Rockets and the Heat are motivated to bounce back from their lackluster performances.
For the Rockets, MVP runner-up James Harden and company seek a turnaround performance following double-digit losses in both of their first two games in front of the crowd at the Toyota Center in Houston. Harden has shot a combined 10 of 39 from the floor and 3 of 22 from beyond the arc to start the season, and is in need of a bounce-back game of any kind. Against the Warriors on Friday night, the Rockets seemed out of sorts as they shot less than 37 percent from the field, including 5 of 23 from three-point range, an extremely uncharacteristic shooting display.
For the Heat, despite Dwyane Wade's 25-point performance against the Cavaliers, they were unable to get meaningful contributions from their supporting cast members as Goran Dragic only supplied 11 points on 3 of 9 shooting, and Gerald Green only provided five points on 1 of 9 from the field. These meager contributions offset a strong defensive outing by Hassan Whiteside, who had nine rebounds and six blocked shots against the imposing Cleveland frontline to go along with his 11 points. After a strong return on Wednesday against the Charlotte Hornets, All-Star forward Chris Bosh scored 16 points, but only grabbed five rebounds.
Tonight, look for both teams to respond with more effort, and also expect better shooting performances for both teams. There are two keys to victory for the Heat. The first has to be the return of Goran Dragic to All-Star form. Strong point guard play will be crucial as the season progresses as it will take pressure off of older superstars such as Wade and Bosh. The second key to victory is the continued contributions from the Heat bench. Players such as Mario Chalmers, rookie Justise Winslow, Amar'e Stoudemire, and Josh McRoberts will need to continue to produce in order for the Heat to reach their full potential.
For the Rockets, number one on their priorities has to be the quality of James Harden's play. At his peak, Harden can be a force of nature that destroys any opposition that stands in his way. It was primarily due to his play that the Rockets got the number two seed in the Western Conference and with a return to his play last season could yield similar results for the Rockets. The second priority for Houston is the integration of point guard Ty Lawson into the offense. Against the Warriors, there were glimpses of greatness when Lawson used his elite speed and quickness to push the ball up the court. That created several open looks for himself and his teammates that just didn't fall.
With the season still young, the Heat should continue to develop and improve, but the Rockets stand a good chance to pick up their first win of the season in Miami.