Caron Butler scored 24 points as the Heat hit 51 percent of
their shots and held off a late charge by the Rockets for a 94-82
victory Friday night.
"That was one of our best games in a long time,'' Heat coach
Pat Riley said. "From beginning to end, we played well. There were
times when we did struggle. We were able to tough it out and make
the stops. It was a good win against a very good team.''
The Heat ranks next to last in league scoring this season, but
they were never behind in the game although the Rockets rallied
briefly in the third quarter after trailing 56-41 at the half.
The Rockets eased back into the game despite their continued
poor shooting and cut Miami's lead to 68-61 with 3:47 left in the
quarter. But the Heat held on for a 70-61 lead to start the fourth.
They won without Eddie Jones, who has a groin injury and
remained in Miami for treatment.
"Coach said for me to be ready to attack tonight,'' Butler
said. "I got the ball and I took it to the rack. We're missing
Eddie Jones right now so the offense has to go through me.
"Tonight my teammates did an excellent job of getting me the
ball in a position to do something with it. I was just making
shots. We did an excellent job of executing our offense.''
The Rockets got it down to seven again at 75-68 with 6:55 to go
on a 3-point basket by Terrence Morris and again with 1:22 to go on
Cuttino Mobley's 3-point basket to make it 87-80.
Riley was pleased with Butler's performance.
"He played great,'' Riley said. "We're going to go to him.
He's really matured, and after 50 games into the season, it's time
for him to step up like he did.''
Steve Francis scored 27 points for the Rockets, who hit only 33
percent from the field. Yao Ming and Mobley each had 10 points for
the Rockets and Mike James and Travis Best each had 15 points for
"They beat us, it was an old fashion butt kicking but at the
same time we beat ourselves by not playing hard from the
beginning,'' Francis said.
Butler, who finished one point short of his career high, had 10
points in the first quarter. James came off the bench and scored 10
second-quarter points. He scored all 10 points in the first five
minutes of the period as the Heat pulled away to their big halftime
Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich was so upset, he called a team
meeting immediately after the game.
"We had a little meeting,'' Tomjanovich said. "We talked about
a lot of things but not one player personally took it on
themselves. Everyone was talking about other players.
"The only way it's going to get changed is if each guy takes it
upon himself. It's some kind of syndrome and I think most of it is
mental. Thinking about somebody else's problems is not going to get
The Rockets are 21-6 when leading at halftime. ... Caron
Butler ranks second among league rookies in scoring and Yao Ming is
third. ... Rockets forward Glen Rice hopes to come off the injured
list with a strained left shoulder in time for Tuesday's game at
the Los Angeles Lakers.