Another heartbreaker: Three takeaways from Friday’s 97-95 loss to the Heat

Feb 10, 2023; Miami, Florida, USA; Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) gets fouled by Houston Rockets forward Jabari Smith Jr. (1) in the first half at Miami-Dade Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

Another heartbreaker: Three takeaways from Friday’s 97-95 loss to the Heat

The Rockets lost a heartbreaker in the game’s final second for the second straight contest, falling in Miami on Friday night 97-95. After scoring just 30 points in the first 23 minutes of the second half, the Heat scored nine points in the game’s final minute, punctuated by Jimmy Butler finishing an alley-oop lob from Gabe Vincent at the buzzer. Tyler Herro led all scorers with 31 points, while Jabari Smith Jr. led the Rockets with 22. Jalen Green struggled all night, scoring just 11 points on 5-of-19 shooting, but his tough layup tied the game with 0.7 seconds left before Butler ended.

Defense gave the Rockets a chance

After allowing the Heat to score 58 points on 47.5% shooting in the first half, the Rockets put the clamps on Miami’s offense after the break. Houston held Miami to 39 points in the second half on 35% shooting, and they forced nine Heat turnovers, but unfortunately, the Heat scored on their final four possessions to win the game.

The Rockets’ effectiveness was illustrated by how they defended Jimmy Butler all night. Butler finished the third quarter with six points on 2-of-7 shooting, but he took over in the fourth, scoring 10 points in the period, with six coming in the game’s final minute.

Jabari Smith Jr’s shot returns

Smith has shot the ball poorly from long distance all season long, but his 3-point shooting percentage dropped to 20% in the 17 games since the calendar flipped to 2023 after connecting on just 1-of-8 attempts in his two games against the Kings this week. Smith found his shot against the Heat. He drained his first three attempts behind the arc and finished the game with 22 points on 8-of-16 shooting.

Smith was a 42% 3-point shooter last season at Auburn, so it’s only a matter of time before his shot starts falling consistently.

Jae’Sean Tate moves into the starting lineup

With Kevin Porter Jr. out for a 15th straight game and Eric Gordon a member of the Los Angeles Clippers, Rockets head coach Stephen Silas moved Jae’Sean Tate into his starting lineup. Even though he had done it just twice this season, starting is nothing new for Tate, he started 135-of-148 games the last two seasons, but Friday was the first time he’d ever started at point guard. Tate wasn’t particularly effective in his 24 minutes, scoring just five points on 2-of-7 shooting, but he had just one turnover and played excellent defense.

With Tate in the starting five, the Rockets’ other two point guards, Daishen Nix and TyTy Washington, were able to get minutes off the bench. Nix scored five points in 14 minutes, but it was Washington who made a major impact, putting up 6 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists to go with 0 turnovers in 23 minutes.

This would seem to be a look at how the Rockets plan on handing out minutes at the point guard position, at least until Porter returns to the floor, for which no timetable has been given.

Next up

The Rockets will head to Philadelphia to take on James Harden and the 76ers Monday night.

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