Rockets fall into 41-point hole almost instantly in lopsided loss to Heat

Ryan YoungYahoo Sports Contributor

James Harden and company got off to a slow start in Miami on Sunday night.

An extremely slow start.

The Houston Rockets fell into a 41-point hole almost instantly in their 129-100 loss to the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena, seemingly unable to get anything going in the first half.

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Miami mounted a massive 34-10 run to start the game, and allowed Houston to score only 14 points in the opening quarter. The Heat’s 46 first-quarter points set a franchise record, and the 46-14 score marked the highest point differential at the end of the first quarter in team history, too.

The Heat kept things rolling to start the second quarter, pushing to a 41-point lead thanks to a Duncan Robinson 3-pointer just four minutes in. Even with Harden and Russell Westbrook playing normal minutes, Houston’s game was simply nowhere to be found.

Things did improve slightly before halftime. Harden led the Rockets on a 14-5 run to close out the second quarter, scoring all but two of Houston’s points in the final 4:16 of the half, to cut the game to 25 points. He finished the half with 21 points — the only Rockets player in double figures at the break — though was 11 of 11 from the free throw line.

Despite a 29-point game from James Harden, the Rockets couldn’t overcome a horrendously-slow start on Sunday night in Miami. (Mark Brown/Getty Images)
Despite a 29-point game from James Harden, the Rockets couldn’t overcome a horrendously-slow start on Sunday night in Miami. (Mark Brown/Getty Images)

The first-half deficit, however, was simply too much for the Rockets to overcome. Miami cruised in the second half to pick up the 29-point victory, their third straight. Houston didn’t lead once throughout the contest.

“I wish I could bottle that up, but obviously the guys have really been working to try to get to our identity and that’s bringing a great deal of energy and commitment to the defensive end,” Spoelstra said, via Fox Sports Florida. “This is obviously one of the most challenging teams to defend in the league. You have to do things with great thought and technique, but the effort has to be there. ...That energy was electric in the first quarter.”

Robinson led the Heat with 23 points, thanks to an impressive 7 of 11 from behind the arc. Meyers Leonard finished with 21 points, and Jimmy Butler added 18 points with nine assists and seven rebounds.

Harden dropped 29 points in the loss, 14 of which came from the charity stripe. Chris Clemons and Ben McLemore added 16 and 14 points off the bench, respectively, and Westbrook finished with 10.

While Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni obviously wasn’t pleased after the loss — he felt they were “soft” and need “appropriate fear” in the near future. He isn’t worried about team chemistry, specifically between Harden and Westbrook.

“They’ll make it work,” D’Antoni said. “Tonight was the first night that we didn’t play well for those two guys, but it happens.”

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