Miami didn't give up. In fact, the Heat players turned the tables on the Rockets.
The Heat rode a wave of defensive energy in the second half to send Houston tumbling to a 0-3 start to the season. Miami tied the game by the end of the third quarter and shellacked the Rockets in the final period, winning the fourth 34-14 en route to a 109-89 victory.
Several bench players -- Mario Chalmers, Justise Winslow and Tyler Johnson -- catalyzed the Heat comeback, and Erik Spoelstra rewarded them with more playing time. Winslow guarded James Harden extremely well, contesting shots and keeping up with the quick guard. Dwyane Wade found the promising rookie for a corner 3 to put Miami up 95-83 with four minutes left to go. Johnson played his scrappy, active game, finishing with 11 points and eight rebounds, including a couple nice second-chance baskets.
Chris Bosh also deserves a lot of credit for this encouraging win. Scoreless through three quarters, Bosh calmly sunk a straight-away 3 at the start of the fourth period. He made another 3 two minutes later and ran the floor for a huge dunk to put Miami up 87-83 with 7:49 left to go. With Wade and Hassan Whiteside on the bench, Bosh propelled the Heat past the Rockets to get rolling.
Speaking of Wade and Whiteside, the two continued to play well off each other. Wade found the Heat center for two thunderous alley-oop dunks in the fourth quarter, which soon transformed from a tight game into a Heat party. Whiteside dominated the Rockets' small frontline, utilizing his strength and athleticism to score in the post. He finished with 25 points, 15 rebounds, three steals and two blocks in 33 minutes of action.
Wade, for his part, added 20 points, eight assists and two steals. The three-time NBA champion continued his perfect free-throw shooting on the season, going 6-of-6 from the line. He even made two 3s tonight. It's great to see Wade look explosive and healthy to start the season.
The strong play from Johnson and Winslow had Erik Spoelstra playing those two young players over Luol Deng and Goran Dragic, two veterans. It was refreshing to see Spoelstra ride the game out with Winslow and Johnson, whose smart, active defense helped the Heat get back in the game. Winslow had his "welcome to the NBA" moment when LeBron James sunk jump-shots over him last Friday night. But to his credit, Winslow went up against Harden tonight and got the better of him in the second half.
The Heat will have Monday night off before hosting the Atlanta Hawks Tuesday at 6:30. This win over the Western Conference Finalist Houston Rockets should give Miami some confidence heading into the game.