The Eastern Conference-leading Miami Heat host the lowly Houston Rockets on Monday night in a game that has the makings of a monumental shift.
Houston snapped its 12-game losing streak on Sunday night, shocking the Memphis Grizzlies 123-112.
“It means a lot,” said Rockets rookie Jalen Green, who scored 24 points on Sunday. “It gives us confidence going to Miami. We needed this one.”
It’s possible the Heat will take the Rockets lightly. Miami went 3-1 over the past week playing against four championship contenders: the Chicago Bulls, Milwaukee Bucks, Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers.
“The last four games have been good for us,” Heat guard Tyler Herro said.
Starting with Saturday’s win over the Sixers, the Heat are playing 11 of 12 games at home. No team in the league has played fewer home games than the Heat, who have just five road games left.
Miami’s biggest problem right now is the fact that assists leader Kyle Lowry has missed four straight games for personal reasons. But Jimmy Butler has taken on a forward role and leads Miami in points (21.4) and steals (1.8) while ranking second in assists (5.7).
The Heat could still improve on Monday. Victor Oladipo, who has a career average of 17.5, could return to the lineup.
Oladipo, a two-time All-Star, hasn’t played since April 8 of last year following a second surgery to his right quadriceps tendon. It is listed as doubtful for Monday.
“He’s got a lot of guts,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Oladipo.
Butler said he was also impressed with Oladipo’s work ethic.
“He looks great,” Butler said. “He’s done countless hours of rehabilitation. I’m thrilled to have him back.”
Herro ranks second on the Heat in scoring (20.6). Center Bam Adebayo leads Miami in rebounds (10.3) and ranks third in points (18.9). Shooter Duncan Robinson, who is averaging 11.2 points, is No. 2 in Heat 3-pointer history.
Meanwhile, Houston will look to keep the momentum from Sunday’s win over Memphis going. In that game, Houston’s Kevin Porter Jr. scored a game-high 29 points, including 19 in the third quarter.
Christian Wood added 28 points and a record 13 rebounds for the Rockets. In his last three games, Wood is averaging 24.7 points and 10.7 rebounds.
Aside from 33-year-old guard Eric Gordon, the Rockets’ current rotation is exceptionally young. Wood is in his prime at 26, but Porter — just 21 — is indicative of Houston’s youth.
Green, the second overall pick in last year’s NBA draft, was a teenager until last month. He is averaging 21.7 points over his last four games.
For the season, Wood leads Houston in points (17.7) and rebounds (10.1). He has 29 double-doubles this season.
Green is averaging 15.1 points, Gordon is averaging 14.0 points and Porter is contributing 13.5 points and 6.1 assists per game.
Dennis Schroder, who leads Houston with 7.5 assists, has missed three straight games with a sprained right ankle. Schroder could return on Monday.
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