When President Obama predicted a rout of Mitt Romney, the basketball lover in him went to an analogy he knew would reveal his confidence nine months before the election.

"We're the Miami Heat, and he's Jeremy Lin," Obama was reported to have said in February, days after the eventual NBA champion Heat dominated Lin, forcing him into eight turnovers and a 1-of-11 shooting game in a 102-88 rout.

Months later, James Harden did better against the Heat but never broke out as he had throughout the playoffs, making 37.5 percent of his shots and averaging 12.4 points per game in the Finals.

Monday night, both face the Heat again for the first time since last season's struggles, hoping to take their success on Saturday against the team that could be the league's worst to this test against the team still considered the NBA's best.

The stakes won't be nearly as great as when Harden last ventured into the teeth of Miami's defensive traps, and the game won't generate the attention that came with Lin's month in the national spotlight. It will, however, measure the Rockets' progress in ways the woeful Pistons and even the Grizzlies on Friday could not.