A look at Miami Heat’s next challenge — the James Harden-led Rockets and their prolific offense

Houston Rockets' James Harden (13) drives around Orlando Magic's Aaron Gordon (00) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Jan. 6, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Houston Rockets’ James Harden (13) drives around Orlando Magic’s Aaron Gordon (00) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Jan. 6, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

MIAMI — The NBA schedule shows no mercy.

That’s why the Heat (11-30) — in the middle of a four-game losing streak and a stretch that’s included 13 losses in 15 games — are now moving on to face the Rockets (32-11) and their prolific offense on Tuesday at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Houston has already made 644 3-pointers, which is the highest total in NBA history through the first 43 games of a season. The previous high through 43 games was 550 by Golden State last season, when the Warriors set the NBA single-season record for 3-pointers made that the Rockets should break easily at this pace.

Houston has also attempted 1,719 3-pointers this season, which is the highest total in NBA history through the first 43 games of a season. In fact, the Rockets have shot 392 more 3-pointers than the team with the second-highest total — Brooklyn — this season.

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All of these historic numbers are happening in Mike D’Antoni’s first season as Houston’s head coach. Coincidence? Definitely not.

“I think it’s a perfect marriage for an organization with Mike and then the players they have,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after Monday’s practice. “You’ve seen the results of that. Everybody is on the same page. There’s no differing motives.

“When organizations get on the same page like that, it’s sweet music. It’s much more elusive and it’s hard to find in this league. It doesn’t matter what style or how you want to play or what kind of shots you want to get or what kind of defense. It’s more important having a culture, having a system, a staff, a management and players that all believe in it. And that’s what they’ve found.”

The combination of D’Antoni’s revolutionary pace-and-space style and the Rockets’ numbers-driven philosophy that calls for taking as many shots as possible at the rim or from 3-point range has produced one of the most unique and dangerous offenses in NBA history.

And guard James Harden is thriving in the system. The 27-year-old is averaging 28.4 points, 8.2 rebounds and 11.7 assists per game, and he’s already recorded 12 triple-doubles this season (second-most in the league behind Russell Westbrook’s 20 triple-doubles).

“It’s really challenging,” Spoelstra said of defending Harden. “You have to make it as tough on him and the rest of them because it all works together. But you can’t speed them up. It’s very difficult to make him uncomfortable. He plays at his own pace and he’s a basketball maestro. He sees plays one or two plays before they happen and that’s probably his brilliance more than anything.”

Harden ranks third in the NBA with 8.8 3-point shot attempts per game behind just his teammate Eric Gordon (9.0) and Golden State’s Stephen Curry (9.5). In addition, Harden leads the NBA with 10.5 free throw attempts per game.

“He’s a guy that’s going to put a lot of pressure on you,” Heat guard Dion Waiters said of Harden. “He’s got the ball 95 percent of the time so he’s a guy that likes to come down and pull up in transition, he likes to play in pick and rolls. But you can’t be too aggressive when he’s in pick and rolls because he’s very smart in creating a foul. As soon as you touch him that slight bit, he throws his hands up and things like that and he gets the call. It’s hard to defend.”

But the Heat will try to find a way to defend Harden and the shooters Houston puts around him. The Rockets feature five players taking more than four 3-pointers per game this season — Gordon (9.8), Harden (8.8), Trevor Ariza (7.3), Ryan Anderson (6.9) and Patrick Beverley (4.1).

To put that into perspective, Tim Hardaway holds the Heat record for 3-pointers attempted in a single season with 590 in 1996-97. Hardaway attempted 7.3 3-pointers per game that season.

“It’s not even just James, man,” Waiters said of defending Houston’s 3-pointers. “They can just shoot the hell out the ball. They’re just coming down and shooting. You can’t even run back to the paint and try to load up and then work your way back out. You got to find a man as soon as possible because if they see an open shot, even if they’re 5 feet behind the three, it’s going up.”

The Heat just hope they aren’t going in Tuesday night.

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