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RECAP: Rockets small ball buries Heat from deep, 115-102

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The Rockets were without Dwight Howard, but used a strong performance from James Harden to eventually bury the Heat.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Heat got off to a rough start, down 0-7 to Houston to begin a 3-game trip. But they quickly used a 15-0 run to put them in pace, and a first half game was played closely. Miami was getting contributions from nearly everyone, including a great effort from Amare Stoudemire. But they trailed 55-60 at the half.

The second half started ugly as well, with the Rockets going on an 8-0 run to get a 13 point lead. That lead was hard for the Heat to punch at. They got it to within two at 72-74, but couldn't maintain the effort.

It's unfortunate too, because the Rockets were undersized. Without Dwight Howard, they started Josh Smith at center and only used Terrance Jones as the other big -- and it didn't matter. The Heat couldn't capitalize, especially in the second half.

What's even worse, Josh Smith made a big difference and it was because his outside shot was falling. He had 19 points and 3-5 3PT FG. The Heat didn't know how to guard the small ball they created a few years ago. That was a contributing factor, but this was the story: the Heat turned the ball over and Houston was knocking down threes left and right. That's basically where the game was won and lost on both sides of the ball. Houston was 16-35 from deep and the Heat had 17 turnovers.

James Harden had a big night to lead the Rockets. He had 26 points and 14 assists (tied for a career-high). Chris Bosh struggled for the Heat going 3-11 from the field. Dwyane Wade had 16 points.

On the first night of a back-to-back, the Heat essentially played an 8-man rotation as Josh McRoberts only played 3 minutes before a few garbage minutes from some others. They just couldn't put together a complete effort throughout the game and it cost them a chance to continue surging in the Eastern Conference standings.

Miami had 7 players in double figures but Luol Deng was the leading scorer with 17 points. That wasn't going to get it done tonight. Justise Winslow did play well in stretches and scored 11 points and 8 rebounds.

The Heat will next play on Wednesday night in Dallas against the Mavericks.