Rockets burned: Three takeaways from Thursday’s 111-108 loss to the Heat

Dec 15, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Rockets guard Jalen Green (4) looks up during the second quarter against the Miami Heat at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Rockets burned: Three takeaways from Thursday’s 111-108 loss to the Heat

A night after scoring 35 with nine 3-pointers in Oklahoma City, Tyler Herro went off for a career-high 41 points with 10 3-pointers, and Jimmy Butler added 20 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, four steals, and three blocks as the Rockets saw their five-game home winning streak come to an end in a 111-108 loss to the Heat. Houston trailed by double digits in the fourth quarter but rallied, and had a chance to tie it in the closing seconds, but Kevin Porter Jr’s game-tying 3 was off the mark.

Rockets youth in perspective

The Heat played without their top three centers, so that meant 42-year-old Udonis Haslem started for the first time since the Bubble and went scoreless with two rebounds in 11 minutes. Every Rocket he played against on Thursday was alive when he made his NBA debut for the Heat on Oct. 28, 2003, though Jabari Smith Jr. was a mere five months old, but only three Rockets who played against him (Eric Gordon, Bruno Fernando, and Garrison Mathews) were born when Haslem played in the National Championship Game with Florida in 2000.

TyTy Washington moves into the rotation

Washington had only appeared in two games this season, both in garbage time, while spending much of his time with the Rockets G League affiliate in Rio Grande Valley, but he took over the backup point guard duties from Daishen Nix for the Rockets, at least for one night as Nix was under the weather.

“He did a good job,” Rockets head coach Stephen Silas. “He ran the show. He got to his floater; he made plays for his teammates. Five assists, zero turnovers, that’s pretty good. So for his first taste, I thought he was a little, not jittery early, but just uncomfortable early, but he settled down and did a good job.”

The 29th pick of June’s draft played eight minutes in the first half and finished with two points and two assists. He looked much more comfortable in the fourth quarter, starting the period by getting in the paint against Miami’s zone defense and finding a cutting Tari Eason for a dunk. He didn’t score in his five fourth-quarter minutes, but he did have three assists.

“Could’ve been more aggressive,” Washington said. “I felt like I made the right plays. Got my teammates shots, good looks, defended well.”

Mixed results against the zone

No team plays more zone defense than the Heat, and because they were short-handed, the Rockets expected to see them go to it even more. Miami opened the game playing man-to-man but shifted to zone after the game’s first timeout.

“We don’t want the zone to slow us down,” Silas said. “We don’t want it to keep us (on the) perimeter, but once we just let go and got the ball up the floor quickly, got the ball in the middle, got the ball moved to the weak side, we were much, much better, so to start the game not great, but it got better as the game went on.”

The Rockets had faced zone for just 69 possessions entering Thursday’s game but saw it on 23 possessions against the Heat on Thursday, leading to 26 points. Miami allowed just 0.89 points per possession while playing zone before Thursday’s game.

Next up

The Rockets will play the fourth game of their season-long seven-game homestand on Saturday night when Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers visit Toyota Center.

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