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James, Heat fall back to Earth against Rockets

James, Heat lose tangle with Rockets, Howard
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

LeBron James and the Miami Heat were scorching before March 4. No one expected James to score another 61 points against the Houston Rockets, since they weren't the Charlotte Bobcats, but it still looked like no one could stop him or the Heat. Yet the Rockets found a way and James lost his touch for a little while -- especially at the end - as Houston cooled off Miami with a 106-103 victory.

James seemed to pick up where he left off with 19 first half points, yet the exhaustion of his 61-point night against the Bobcats on March 3 finally caught up to him. With only three points and a mere 1-for-7 shooting performance in the second half, James left a hole that the Heat couldn't fill up.

The Rockets had their big stars firing on all cylinders, as Dwight Howard had 22 points and 16 rebounds to go along with James Harden's 21 points. Howard even banged into James's broken nose and mask as they jumped for a pass in the final seconds. It didn't take James out of the game, yet the Heat didn't benefit from him staying on the floor, as he missed a potential tying three-pointer at the buzzer to cap his rough night.

This defeat brought an end to Miami's eight-game winning streak that put James right back into the MVP race -- and put the Heat back within striking distance of the Indiana Pacers for the East's top seed. The Pacers couldn't take advantage when they lost to the Golden State Warriors on March 4, so the Heat didn't lose much in the big picture.

One bad night just 24 hours after an historic performance won't hurt James' MVP resume too much either. Nevertheless, he put together his career-best stats against a sub .500 Bobcats team, while a contending Rockets club was able to shut him down.

Now that James and Miami have taken their first hit in over a week, and that they have at least a day to rest, their NBA finals rematch/potential finals preview with the San Antonio Spurs on March 6 should be more revealing. Will the 61 point James or the exhausted James show up -- or will something in between be just enough?