Miami Heat guard Dwyan Wade has emerged as the favorite to take on James Harden at home in a matchup of the NBA’s top two scorers.
But the Heat have already been outplayed in this series and their chances of beating Harden on the road are slim, with Wade’s team outscoring Houston 21-8 over the last four games.
But as Wade’s shot-making and offensive abilities have improved, so has his defensive intensity.
And while the Heat are averaging 97.7 points in their last four home games, Harden is averaging an NBA-best 116.3 points per game on the other end of the court.
“He’s a great player,” Wade said.
“He’s not going to be a dominant player, but he’s a guy that can be one of the best.
I’m sure we’ll see what happens.
But it’s a tough matchup.”
The Heat have been playing the best basketball of any team in the Western Conference and in the Eastern Conference, where they’ve won six of seven.
They’ve won four of the last five games, including a win in Memphis on Saturday.
Miami, which plays at home Thursday against the San Antonio Spurs, is 2-1 against Houston this season.
The Heat’s offense has been particularly effective this season, with the team shooting 58.4 percent from 3-point range.
The Rockets rank among the league leaders in 3-pointers made per game at 3.3 per game, while the Grizzlies rank among teams with the most 3-pointer attempts per game of any of their opponents.
But Houston’s defense has been especially effective this year, ranking among the top 10 in defensive efficiency at 107.5 points allowed per 100 possessions.
The Cavaliers, who won their fourth straight and seventh in a row in this matchup, are shooting a league-best 37.3 percent from beyond the arc and have allowed an average of 106.3 free throws per game this season despite being outscored by 12.1 points per 100 attempts.
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