Rockets vs. Cavs preview: James against James in MVP showdown

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 09: LeBron James /

The Rockets travel to Cleveland to take on the Cavaliers tonight on ABC.

The Houston Rockets (37-13) are off to their best start in franchise history. The play of James Harden has been one of the main reasons for it. He has been the leader in the MVP race and is playing the best basketball of his career.

LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers (30-20) hasn’t been too bad either. In his age 33 season, he still is having some of his best stats of his illustrious career. The Cavs, though, are struggling a bit. They are 4-6 in their last 10 games and are playing pretty bad defense. They are sitting in the third seed in the Eastern Conference and many wonder if their Finals streak will end.

The Rockets won the other matchup of the season series on November 7, 117-113. Will they be able to replicate the success tonight?

Injury Report

Eric Gordon is out tonight for the Rockets with a sore back. The team is hopeful that he will be back Tuesday in Brooklyn.

Trevor Ariza also remains out with a hamstring injury.

Kevin Love is out for the Cavs after fracturing his hand.

Projected Starting 5


Chris Paul/James Harden/Luc Mbah a Moute/Ryan Anderson/Clint Capela


Isaiah Thomas/J.R. Smith/Jae Crowder/LeBron James/Tristan Thompson

Keys to Victory

The Rockets will need to play tough defense tonight against the Cavs. Though Cleveland isn’t fantastic defensively, they are still the No. 5 offensive team in the league.

Speaking of their bad defense, if the Rockets run their offense well, they should be able to run the Cavs off the court. Isaiah Thomas has been horrendous defensively, and LeBron hasn’t been too great either. James Harden and Chris Paul should be able to play pretty well.

The battle of the benches will be an interesting one. Both teams have pretty good benches and it will be a fun matchup. The Rockets are without their sixth man Eric Gordon, so Gerald Green will need to play well along with P.J. Tucker and Nene. Houston can’t let Dwyane Wade get hot, that would be bad for the bench unit.

J.R. Smith

It’d be tough to write this without mentioning what J.R. Smith said.

JR Smith on playing against James Harden in summer pickup games in LA:

"That’s even worse because he carries & holds & does all that other stuff. They don’t call it in the league, but it’s even worse in the summer."

— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) February 3, 2018

J.R. seems a little bit salty. He also said:

James Harden had 35-13-11 against the Cavs back in November. During postgame, I asked JR Smith what the hardest part about guarding Harden was. "He gets every call. It's hard to guard anyone in this league, but when you get every call, it's impossible." #Rockets

— Kelly Iko (@KellyIkoNBA) February 3, 2018

Whatever you say J.R. It was also announced that he’s on the trading block, so there’s that.

Be sure to tune in at 7:30 tonight on ABC!

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