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The one thing the Houston Rockets prefer not doing may help the Miami Heat

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The Rockets beat the Warriors. Do the Heat have a chance against the Houston juggernaut on Monday?

Miami Heat v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Brock Williams-Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

Last season the Miami Heat beat Houston Rockets twice, 109-103 and 117-109. In Monday’s showdown a different crew will take the court, as only Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic return as starters for the Heat, while the Rockets added Chris Paul to their team.

The one constant for Houston remains their obsessive preference for efficient plays on offense. For instance, compare their numbers against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday:

FGM: GSW 40, HR 41

3PM: GSW 17, HR 14

FTM: GSW 11, HR 20

REB: GSW 33, HR 46

AST: GSW 31, HR 19

TS% GSW 60.9%, HR 58.1%

ORtg: GSW 104.2; HR 111.8

The Rockets strive for maximum points per possession by either making 3-point baskets or getting fouled on field goal attempts. The 9 extra points at the charity stripe won the game for Houston, even though the Warriors made more 3-point baskets.

Per basketball-reference Houston is LAST in 2-point attempts and conversions, and 27th in overall field-goal attempts. What separates them from the rest of the pack as an offensive powerhouse is being first in sheer quantity of 3-point makes and second in free-throw makes. For the Rockets, dunks that get only two points aren’t efficient enough to use as an important tool, unless a shooting foul is part of it.

The number one thing for the Heat to avoid in Houston is being over-aggressive on defense and drawing unnecessary fouls when contesting shots. That happens way too often and it’s a bad habit versus the Rockets, because free throws are one of their two bread-and-butter strategies to win games.

Last season Miami used Whiteside in the paint to great advantage for their wins. Like the Bucks, the Rockets have a good but not dominant center in Clint Capela, and depend on their All-Star perimeter players to win games. Houston allows the 3rd most baskets in the restricted area (more than the Milwaukee Bucks or Cleveland Cavaliers).

That said, the Rockets scored 116 points against the Warriors and Miami faces long odds to win in Houston. Kevin Durant said, “I think the difference between them this year and last year -- obviously everybody is going to say CP -- but they’re just playing harder. They’re playing harder on the defensive side of the ball.”