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Game Preview: Heat look to extend their red hot start to the season as they host Rockets

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Miami's excellent start to the season is showing no signs of slowing down, but they must tame two former League MVPs.

NBA: Preseason-Houston Rockets at Miami Heat
Oct 18, 2019; Miami, FL, USA; Houston Rockets guard Russell Westbrook (0) defends Miami Heat guard Kendrick Nunn (25) during the second half at American Airlines Arena.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat (4-1) play hosts to the Houston Rockets (3-2) on Sunday night and after claiming two wins in the space of three days against the Atlanta Hawks, they are currently sitting second in the Eastern Conference. Yes, it's still early days but you have to say, given their recent form, Miami head into this one as one of the hottest teams in the NBA right now.

As mentioned, Miami has enjoyed an excellent start to the season which has been largely due to the fact that every player who has stepped onto the hardwood - be it on the road or at the AmericanAirlines Arena, has played their part. Whether it's All-Star guard Jimmy Butler, who last time out against the Hawks became just the fifth ever player in NBA history and the first Heat player to finish with a stat line of 11 assists, 9 rebounds, 6 steals, and three blocks, to go along with his five points.

You could also say it has been Kendrick Nunn, who has set the league alight in his rookie year so far and looks as if he could be the next man in line from Chicago to once again capture the hearts of the Heat Nation.

After leading the team with 28 points in their previous game against Atlanta, along with his other 87 points from his previous four games combined, Nunn is now the proud owner of the ‘Most Points Through 5 Games For An Undrafted NBA Player’ title and it has to be said, it is an achievement that’s is more than deserved.

Although both Nunn and Butler have been very instrumental in Miami’s 4-1 start, as too have other key players such as: Justise Winslow (although Justise did sit out of the game in Atlanta), Bam Adebayo, and my personal pick for the Sixth Man of the Year crown this season - Goran Dragic, but in truth, the focus has to be very much on Nunn’s and a fellow rookie who is looking right home in the league.

Tyler Herro, a former Kentucky product and Miami’s 13th overall pick at the 2019 NBA Draft has been sensational when his number has been called by Coach Erik Spoelstra. Herro is averaging a bench-leading 23 points per game, while shooting 56 percent from the field and 46.2 percent from three.

In addition to this, in the Heat’s first of the two games against the Hawks, Herro helped himself to his own piece of history and as he became the youngest player in NBA history to score 29 points on fewer than 10 shots. Tyler scored his 29 in just 9 attempts, sinking 7 as he shot 77.8 percent from the field and 75 percent from deep (3 of 4).

As for Houston, they currently hold a 3-2 record to start their season as they continue to try and mould the deadly partnership of the 2017 and 2018 league MVPs Russell Westbrook and James Harden.

After starting the season with a narrow 117-111 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, the Rockets had previously won three straight before they suffered their second loss of the season to the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night 116-123.

Despite the loss, Harden (36, 5, and 8) and Westbrook (27, 7, and 8) still both combined for 63 points and while Russ shot 12-of-25 from the field for 48 percent, Harden as he does, got most of his work done at the free-throw line as he converted all but one of his 15 attempts for 93.3 percent.

While many thought that sharing the ball would be a very big issue but these two very ball-dominant guards, it has to be said that despite early season struggles for Harden from the field, it hasn't been all that bad for the Rockets.

Harden still leads the league in PPG with 36.6 and Russ is currently sat in third in assists with 9.8, only behind leader LeBron James (10.8) and Malcolm Brogdan (10.2). As a team, Houston leads the way in PPG with 125.6 so if the Heat are to claim what would be their biggest win of the season so far then it's going to take a huge defensive effort.

Luckily, the Heat are a team who have been very good when it comes to the defense. Miami currently sit inside the top 10 (6th with 99.3) in team defensive rating, while the Rockets are the second-worst team in the league with 115.9. Another area the Heat defense can pride themselves on and will be sure to use in their advantage is team blocks, as with an average of 7 blocks per game, they only just sit behind the leaders the Los Angeles Lakers who average 7.8. As for the Rockets, they only average 5 which is only good enough to be tied for 13th.

The Heat and Rockets will meet on Sunday for the first of two matchups this regular season. Last season, the teams split the season series with one win a piece, with each team winning on their home court.

Miami has currently won eight of their last 10 against the Rockets when they are at home. The all-time series between the two teams is currently tied at 32 wins each with the Heat 20-13 at home and 12-19 on the road.

Probable Starters:

Heat

  • Justise Winslow
  • Kendrick Nunn
  • Jimmy Butler
  • Bam Adebayo
  • Meyers Leonard

Houston

  • Russell Westbrook
  • James Harden
  • Danuel House Jr.
  • P.J. Tucker
  • Clint Capela

Broadcast Info:

Tip-off: 6:00pm

TV: FOX Sports Sun (Eric Reid, John Crotty, Jason Jackson)

Radio: The Ticket 790AM & The HEAT Radio Network (Mike Inglis, Ruth Riley Hunter)

Spanish Radio: WAQI 710AM & The HEAT Spanish Radio Network (José Pañeda, Joe Pujala)