Last season the Houston Rockets and Cleveland Cavaliers entered the playoffs ranked second in their respectively conferences. One year later these teams have headed in opposite directions.
Cleveland sit atop the Eastern Conference having managed several player injuries and in spite of firing their head coach David Blatt and replacing him with Tyronn Lue. Meanwhile the Houston Rockets enter tonight tied with the Mavericks for eighth, a full game back of the Jazz with just 8 games left to play.
Punctuating just how far the Houston Rockets have fallen is the fact the Cavaliers will rest LeBron James this evening. Consider for a moment how much benefit would come from giving James Harden a game or two off and then wipe that from your thought process as the Rockets will need the bearded man to play in his league leading 37.9 minutes per game.
With that, let’s break down the teams in the game day preview:
Venue: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH
Game Time: 8:00 PM EST – 7:00 PM CT
TV: National TNT and ESPNR, Local FSOhio
Radio: 790 AM and WTAM 1100 / 100.7 WM Sirius:207 (Internet H:885/A:890)
Cleveland took the initially meeting this season demolishing the Rockets at home.
- January 15 CLE 91 – 77 HOU
- Lebron James will be rested against the Rockets tonight
- Kyrie Irving was rested Saturday, but expected to play this evening
- Iman Shumpert – knee, missed Saturday, will be a game time decision
- Sam Dekker remains out dealing with recovery from his back surgery
Surprisingly the teams aren’t that far apart when you break down the stats. Although it appears the Cavaliers are a far better defensive club the truth is Houston has been better since the All-Star Break. More specifically the Rockets have ranked 8th on defense in March (allowing 104.1 points per 100 possessions) versus the Cavaliers who have ranked 17th (allowing 106.1 points per 100 possessions).
Keys To Winning:
- Just Win: At this stage there isn’t much choice, the Rockets simply need to win and take advantage of teams resting top stars like LeBron James.
- Pace: Though the goal of Lue was to increase Cleveland’s pace they actually rank one spot lower (29th) since he took over. Therefore pushing pace would work to the Rockets advantage.
- Rebounds: Aiding their pace would be the requirement of the Rockets to rebound better than the Cavs (who rank second on rebound percent, behind only the Thunder).
- Push the ball in transition: Tying in with rebounding and pace will be the need for the Rockets to push the ball so Cleveland has no time to set up defensively.
- Attack Irving and Love: Though great offensively these two stars still struggle on defense so the smart thing to do would be to try to get them in early foul trouble and take advantage. Better yet, keep them on the court so their better defensive counterparts don’t enter the game, attack them to score and gain a lead and then try to limit or shut them down on their offensive end.
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The odds makers have the Cavaliers favored by 2 points and the projected over-under is 211.5 with extremely heavy action favoring the Cavaliers. Given the Cavs are at home this isn’t a huge margin for the team to be granted as favorites.
Based on the fishy way the zebras have been calling games of late I have a feeling (especially with over 70% of the action on Cleveland) that the Rockets will get the majority of whistles and not only cover the 2 point spread but win easily. It’s sad I’m actually feeling the officials have that much of a say in games, but their actions especially down the stretch have been telling. Factor in the 3 game margin the Cavs have over the Raptors who’ve experienced some disgustingly biased officiating in the majority of there games lately and that also points to a reason for the Rockets to win.
I’m expecting a Rockets win of 10+ points with Harden getting to the line 15 times or more and registering close to a triple double, and I also won’t be surprised to see one of Irving or Love in early foul trouble.
For more exciting news and stories on the Cleveland Cavaliers visit our affiliate FanSided site: King James Gospel
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