With roughly 20 seconds remaining in the game and Houston up 106-103, James Harden lofted an ill-advised pass from the backcourt to Howard, who was in the frontcourt. James and Howard both jumped in an attempt to corral the ball, and Howard's right elbow hit James across the face while both players were in mid-air. The ball eventually went out of bounds as a Rockets turnover while James fell backwards to the court,where he held his face. James would play out the game's final 13 seconds, missing a potential game-tying three-pointer at the buzzer.
The four-time MVP broke his nose when he took a blow to the face from Serge Ibaka during a victory over the Thunder on Feb. 20. The injury kept him on the sidelines for one game, a Heat victory over the Bulls, and he returned to the court wearing a black mask when the Heat beat the Knicks last Thursday. The NBA then requested that James switch to a clear mask, which he has worn since Miami's victory over Orlando on Saturday.
Howard led Houston with 22 points (on 8-for-13 shooting) and 16 rebounds. All five Rockets starters finished in double Miami dropped to 43-15 with the loss. Houston improved to 41-19 with their second straight win.