Rockets face more injury issues ahead of Heat
Things apparently were too idyllic for the Houston Rockets, whose season has been largely hamstrung by an endless succession of injuries to key components of their primary rotation.
Armed with a full complement of bodies for the second time in as many games, the Rockets on Wednesday entered Charlotte not only fully healthy, but capable of tinkering with personnel packages with the aim of uncovering a grouping that might spark a postseason push.
But then they lost Kenneth Faried (hip) and Iman Shumpert (calf) to injuries and were left scrambling against the Hornets, pulling out a 118-113 victory riding the efforts of their usual suspects.
When the Rockets host the Miami Heat on Thursday at Toyota Center, they will do so with the same lineup uncertainty that has plagued them throughout the season. Houston has survived thus far by manipulating its roster effectively enough to stay in position to claim home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
"We know how important these last 22 games 1/8including Wednesday's win 3/8 are," said Rockets guard James Harden, who scored a team-high 30 points despite continuing his shooting slump from the 3-point line. "It's for seeding, it's for opportunities to put yourself in position to get ready for the postseason."
Harden, who had his streak of consecutive 30-point games snapped at 32 on Monday against the Atlanta Hawks, finished 1 for 11 from behind the arc and is just 3 for 31 on 3s over his past three starts. The Rockets have relied on supporting personnel to shoulder the scoring load, with four others reaching double figures against Charlotte. Six Rockets scored in double figures against the Hawks and, in their victory over Golden State last Saturday without Harden, three Rockets posted 20-plus points.
Even with their roster compromised in Charlotte, the Rockets still had enough in reserve. How much of an asset their depth will be down the stretch remains linked to player availability.
"The biggest thing for us is we've got to stay healthy," Rockets guard Chris Paul said. "We feel like we've got a chance to play with anybody as long as we've got our full team."
The Heat needed a buzzer-beating 3-point bank shot from Dwyane Wade to record a 126-125 victory over the Warriors on Wednesday and snap their 3-game losing skid. Miami had dropped 9 of 11 games before rallying against Golden State, which erased a 24-point deficit to grab a late lead.
Wade finished with 25 points. The buzzer-beater was the fifth of his career and first since 2009.
Even with their recent struggles, the Heat closed to within a half-game Charlotte for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. But the road to the playoffs is arduous for Miami, at least over the next month, with the Heat scheduled to contest 10 of their next 12 games against teams currently in position to make the playoffs.
"We just can't let go of the rope," Wade said. "And we've got a tough schedule. It's no secret, right? It's out there. But you come in and you take it one game at a time. And that's all we can continue to do."
--Field Level Media
Updated February 28, 2019