Basketball

Heat bring Rockets back to earth, Paul injured

Saturday, December 22, 2018

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Los Angeles , United States (AFP) — The Miami Heat snapped Houston's five-game NBA winning streak with a 101-99 victory on Thursday in a game that saw Rockets point guard Chris Paul injured again.

The Rockets, coming off an 18-point victory over Washington on Wednesday in which they set a single-game record with 26 three-pointers, were leading 45-37 in the second quarter when Paul, diving to regain control of the ball, clutched his left thigh and quickly departed.

The Rockets later said Paul had a left hamstring strain and wouldn't return.

“It'll be some time,” Rockets Coach Mike D'Antoni said of Paul, who was scheduled for an MRI exam yesterday.

The defeat and injury were a double-blow for a Rockets team that had looked to be turning the corner after a slow start to the season.

With five straight wins, they had risen from 14th to seventh in the Western Conference in the space of a week. But the loss of Paul could prove particularly damaging.

They lost games six and seven of the Western Conference finals last season after Paul suffered a right hamstring injury.

“It's part of the game,” James Harden said of adjusting to life without Paul. “You've got to figure it out. Injuries happen — opportunities for other guys to step up, keep going.”

Josh Richardson led the Heat with 22 points. Tyler Johnson added 19 — producing a layup, a big block and a three-pointer to pull the Rockets to a 96-92 lead with less than three minutes remaining.

James Harden led the Rockets with 35 points, 12 assists and six rebounds, climbing off the floor after a frightening fall midway through the fourth quarter to make two free throws that pulled Houston into a 90-89 lead.

But the Rockets couldn't hang on. Miami star Dwyane Wade missed jump shots on the Heat's last possession and Houston's Gerald Green corralled a rebound.

Eric Gordon inbounded to Harden, who passed back to Gordon whose bid for a game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer bounced off the rim.

“We had a lot of opportunities,” Harden said. “We gave them a lot of second chance opportunities, especially in the first half (that) kept them in the game and they made big shots in the end.”


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