HOUSTON (CBSMiami/SportsDirect) – You better believe the Miami Heat are looking at Wednesday’s game as must-win.
The Heat stunned the NBA with a 13-game winning streak that brought them back into contention for a top eight spot in the Eastern Conference, but the hole they started in was big enough that they need to avoid any kind of losing skid.
The Heat will try to avoid going into the All-Star break with three straight losses when they visit the surging Houston Rockets on Wednesday.
Miami was 11-30 before ripping off its winning streak but endured a letdown in the last two games with losses to sub-.500 foes Philadelphia and Orlando.
“We are a lunch pail, hard-hat team,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters after Monday’s 116-107 home loss to Orlando. “I wish there was another way we could win. That’s just not the formula for this group. It’s not a successful formula for us to give up 116 points. … There were too many pockets we didn’t play to our identity with great effort, physicality.”
Miami needs to find some toughness on the defensive end against the Rockets, who won their last four games and blasted Phoenix 133-102 on Saturday.
“It’s good for us,” All-Star guard James Harden told reporters after leading Houston to the win. “We got one more game before the break, and we want to finish up strong. We get a couple of days of rest and ready for the last push and the postseason.”
TV: 8 p.m. ET, FSN Sun (Miami), ROOT (Houston)
ABOUT THE HEAT (24-32): Miami’s winning streak included a 109-103 triumph at home over Houston on Jan. 17 in which it held the Rockets to 9-of-39 from 3-point range, and shooting guard Dion Waiters sees the defense as a team effort.
“You’ve got to help other guys,” Waiters told reporters. “Five people have got to help everyone out there. Simple as that. It’s not about stopping guys individually. You need everybody on a string.”
Miami was outrebounded 61-42 on Monday and allowed Orlando to shoot 48.9 percent from the floor.
ABOUT THE ROCKETS (40-17): Houston was also pointing to defense as the key after holding the Suns to 39.4 percent shooting on Saturday, and Harden is buying in on that end of the floor.
“We’re in a good place, I like our defensive effort,” Harden told ESPN.com. “I think that’s really important. We score, we can score the ball at a high level. Defensively, we’re locked in, and we’re helping each other out. We’re communicating, and we’ve gotten better and we’ll continue to grow and get better. And ultimately, if we want to get to where we want to go, that’s going to have to be at a high level.”
Harden is playing at a high level on the other end of the floor as well and scored at least 40 points in three of the last five games.
- Rockets reserve SG Eric Gordon (back) missed the last two games but could return Wednesday.
- Miami C Hassan Whiteside pulled down 19 rebounds in each of the last two games.
- The home team took each of the last four in the series.
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