The Miami Heat went into Monday's game in Houston with plenty of available excuses to just roll over and play dead on the final night of its five-game, eight-day road trip.
Not only were Goran Dragic or Tyler Johnson not available once again, but the Rockets owned the second-best record in the league.
None of it, though, stopped the Heat from putting forth a worthy effort — until the Rockets All-Star backcourt of James Harden and Chris Paul proved too much down the stretch. Harden broke an 88-all tie with a three-pointer with 3:06 to play, jumpstarting an 11-2 Rockets run and a 99-90 victory over the Heat at the Toyota Center.
Hassan Whiteside led Miami with 22 points, 13 rebounds, three steals and two assists. But he also had seven of the team's 18 turnovers, which proved costly for the Heat (27-20) down the stretch.
Harden led Houston (33-12) with 28 points but on 10 of 26 shooting as the Rockets shot just 44.4 percent for the game and failed to reach 100 points for only the fourth time this season.
The Heat made its first six shots and 11 of its first 12 and built a 26-12 lead when Whiteside made a jumpshot with 4:34 left in the opening quarter. Harden would eventually cut into that lead with a personal 9-0 run and Houston would tie the score at 44 on a Ryan Anderson three-pointer with 2:54 left in the half.
But Miami still went into the break ahead 50-46 thanks in large part to 18 points from Whiteside and because Houston shot only 43.2 percent in its lowest scoring first half of the season.
The Heat played once again without Dragic (bruised left knee) and Johnson (sprained left ankle). Miami has had eight players combine to miss 148 games due to injury or illness this season.
Miami returns home from its five-game road trip 2-3 and will host the worst team in the league in Sacramento (13-33) on Thursday and Charlotte, a team it has already beaten three times, on Saturday night.