One streak had to come to an end.
Houston (16-15) put its five-game win streak on the line Thursday night when it visited Miami (14-16), who entered the night having won two in a row.
One night after sinking an NBA-record 26 3-pointers, the Rockets came out of the gate firing, connecting on six of their first 12 3-point attempts in the first quarter to get out to a 33-21 lead through the first 12 minutes.
Point guard Chris Paul exited the game with a strained left hamstring in the second frame, and Miami would outscore Houston 61-43 in the second and third quarters to enter the fourth with an 82-76 lead.
.@KristenLedlow gives an update on Chris Paul, who suffered a strained left hamstring and will not return to tonight's game. pic.twitter.com/OLTHVEIymG- NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) December 21, 2018
The Rockets, who have won just one game this season when trailing at the beginning of the fourth quarter, trailed by as many as 11 points in the fourth, but a late rally gave the visitors an opportunity to win.
Down two points with less than four seconds remaining, Eric Gordon got a clean look at what would have been a game-winning 3-pointer.
Gordon's last-second miss was a reflection of what type of night it was for both teams - the Rockets finished the game shooting 29-for-82 (35.4 percent) from the field while the Heat were slightly better, shooting 36-for-93 (38.7 percent) on the night. In a game where cold shooting was the norm, rebounding and bench production ultimately proved to be the difference.
Thanks in part to 17 rebounds from Hassan Whiteside, Miami outrebounded Houston 61-41, grabbing 20 offensive rebounds to Houston's eight; the Heat's bench outscored the Rockets' reserves 35-20.
James Harden finished with a game-high 35 points (on 7-for-23 shooting) to go along with 12 assists and six rebounds. Miami was paced by 22 points from Josh Richardson and benefitted from the contributions of reserves Dwyane Wade (10 points) and Derrick Jones Jr. (15 points).
The Heat will look to extend their win streak to four games on Saturday when they host Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks while the Rockets return home to host the San Antonio Spurs Saturday - it will be Houston's last game before its Christmas day showdown with Russell Westbrook, Paul George and the Oklahoma City Thunder.