The Miami Heat protected their home court with a 120-113 victory over the Houston Rockets on Monday night. Miami outplayed the Rockets right off tip, using their experience and comradery against a young team that was without some key contributors. Head coach Erik Spoelstra found success with a plethora of lineups, slowly learning how this roster will come together as the season progresses.
Game ball: Kevin Love
While Tyler Herro was the leading scorer for Miami with 28 points, Kevin Love served as the teams X-factor. He had a solid game in all aspects, used as a point-forward to help spark the Heat’s offense. Love finished the game with 15 points, seven rebounds, and four assists.
He made an impact as the backup center, but also had success with Bam Adebayo in the lineup. Love showed how important he is to this team, with Spoelstra trusting him to break down Houston's top five-rated defense.
“I just feel like you need guys like Kevin, veteran guys like that, who have relevant experience, he’s just able to read a lot of different coverages, nuances," Spoelstra said. "If teams are doing something unique, like switching, like you saw tonight. He just finds a way to take advantage of it still with his IQ, and his size, and his ability to score."
It was a high IQ performance from the veteran. He was never overly aggressive in baited mismatches and knew when to pick his spots on the offensive end. Love played the game at his pace, even with a Rockets team that likes to speed things up.
Stat of the game: 30 assists
Miami ended the night with 30 assists, spreading the wealth throughout the lineup. They had six players score in double-figures, two of which recorded recorded over 20 points. Adebayo and Herro were the usual leading scorers, but Miami was able to pick up shooting spurts from a couple of others.
Duncan Robinson tied his career-high with seven assists, while a player like Nikola Jovic added six assists. Jovic had a tremendous first half for the Heat, posting seven rebounds and four assists in the first 12 minutes alone.
Trust seemed to show around the team on Monday. There’s a level of comfort with the players and game plan that’s building in the locker room. With injuries and new players in the lineup this season it’s taken some time for the Heat to adjust, but it seems to be clicking for Spoelstra and company.
Quote of the game: "That just has to be a continued habit"
Spoelstra spoke on the improvement Miami showed after an up and down road trip. The Heat have been a relatively streaky team, and Spoelstra is continuing to work on finding an answer for consistency.
“We went to work this morning. We were disappointed in a couple of our games on that road trip. In particular, offensively we were not at our best in a couple of those games," Spoelstra said. "It was much better, it was happening right from the get-go. That just has to be a continued habit."
The offense moved with ease against the Rockets, despite Miami missing starting point guard Kyle Lowry for most of the game. Lowry left the contest after 16 minutes with a hand injury that looked concerning, but Spoelstra mentioned the X-ray came back clean, and the Heat announced the injury to be a left-hand strain.