Miami Heat vs. Houston Rockets Pick & Prediction JANUARY 8th 2024

It’s been exactly two weeks between home games for the Miami Heat.

On Monday night, the Heat will finally return home as they take on the Houston Rockets.

“We’ve been on the road for a long time,” Heat center Bam Adebayo said. “It’s time to protect home court.”

The Heat went 2-3 on their West Coast swing, wrapping it up with a 113-97 loss at Phoenix on Friday night.

When that game was over, the Heat — amazingly enough — stood in a four-way tie for fifth place in the Eastern Conference. In all, five Eastern Conference teams — including Miami — entered Sunday separated by just a half-game.

Miami, which is 9-6 at home this season, closed the road trip missing its star, Jimmy Butler (foot injury), as well as role players Caleb Martin (sprained ankle) and Haywood Highsmith (concussion).

Tyler Herro leads Miami in scoring (22.4), although he has missed 18 games this season due to injury. In Friday’s loss to Phoenix, Herro went cold, scoring just nine points on 4-for-17 shooting, including 1-for-7 from deep.

For the season, however, Herro has been reliable, shooting 41.4 percent on 3-pointers, which is on pace to be his career-best mark.

Adebayo is another key player for Miami. He ranks first on the Heat in rebounds (10.3) and second in scoring (22.0). He is also coming off a 28-point, 10-rebound effort against the Suns.

Meanwhile, the Rockets are fresh off an impressive home win, beating the Milwaukee Bucks 112-108 on Saturday night.

That concluded a 3-4 homestand for the Rockets, who will play their next six contests on the road.

In Saturday’s game, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 48 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, which was OK with Rockets coach Ime Udoka.

“We can live with one guy going off as long as we keep everybody else under wraps,” Udoka said. “Giannis is a hard guard. But we’ve shown this season that when we go after everybody else and let one guy loose, we get good results.”

The Rockets, who have had three straight losing seasons with 22 or fewer wins, are improved this season, entering Monday with an 18-16 record.

Houston has a mix of veterans and young guns.

The vets list includes 29-year-old Fred VanVleet, who was an All-Star in 2022 and is averaging 17.1 points; and Dillon Brooks, who turns 28 this month and has been out due to an oblique injury.

But Houston’s main focus is a young core that features Cam Whitmore, 19; Jabari Smith Jr., 20; Amen Thompson, 20; Jalen Green, 21; and Alperen Sengun, 21.

Sengun leads the team in scoring (21.4) and rebounds (9.0).

VanVleet tops the squad in assists (a career-high 8.5). VanVleet, who bolted from Toronto to sign a $128.5-million deal with Houston, has been the steady hand the Rockets needed at point guard.

Green is a gifted scorer who averaged a team-high 22.1 points last season. This season, he is averaging 17.4 points, but he is working on becoming more efficient. His three-point percentage is up to 35.2 from last season’s mark of 33.8.

Smith — like Green — was a top-three pick in the NBA Draft. Smith’s 3-point shooting is up from 30.7 percentage last season to 39.0 percent this season. He is averaging 13.4 points and 8.7 rebounds.

–Field Level Media

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