The Houston Rockets sent a message to the rest of the NBA after annihilating the Cavaliers on Saturday night from start to finish.
About halfway through the first quarter, it was clear that the Rockets were going to score 120 or more points. James Harden and Chris Paul were able to get any shot they wanted, and everyone knew that they’d go on a huge run eventually.
The Cavs never led, and Houston’s lead ballooned by as much as 35 points. The Rockets got easy layups, they got to the free-throw line, and they rained 3’s on Cleveland left and right.
Houston limited LeBron James to just 11 points and Isaiah Thomas and J.R. Smith led the team in scoring with just 12. The Rockets held the Cavs, who have the league’s fifth ranked offense, to just 88 points.
The Houston Rockets dominated Cleveland, a team who has made three consecutive Finals, on both sides of the ball. They outplayed, out hustled, and showed more commitment to winning than a ‘championship caliber’ Cavaliers team.
During the blowout, the commentators covered a wide range of topics to fill in the time. In the midst of that, Jeff Van Gundy said something that has become more and more obvious. He was talking about the additions that the Rockets made over the offseason, and then he mentioned that Houston was clearly the second best team in the NBA. He’s right about that, and it is not even close.
Of course, Rockets fans would like to hear that Houston is the best team in the NBA, but that isn’t very realistic at the moment. The Warriors have won two of the last three championships and their roster is as deep as ever.
At 41-12, the Warriors still have the best record in the NBA, and they’re sending a league-high four players to the All-Star game. Golden State is one of the most talented teams that we’ve ever seen, and they deserve to be the top dogs.
At times, the Warriors remind me of the “Big-3” era Miami Heat. Those Heat teams knew how good they were, and they understood that the playoffs were all that mattered. When the postseason came, they would flip the proverbial switch and end up in the Finals year after year. The Warriors have that switch, which is why they won’t panic if they go on a long losing streak or if everyone else starts to question how dominant they can be.
At this moment, it’s the Warriors, the Rockets and then everyone else. The Rockets have been on a fire recently, winning 8 of their last 10 games. Those victories came against top-tier teams including the Cavs, Spurs, Wolves and Warriors.
Houston won their season series with Golden State 2-1, with that loss coming in a game without James Harden. When Houston’s normal starting lineup is healthy, the Rockets are 16-1. And when Harden, Paul and Clint Capela start, the Rockets are 22-1.
The only thing standing in the way of Houston potentially knocking out the Warriors in the postseason is health. The Rockets sent a message to the rest of the NBA and specifically the Warriors after they destroyed the Cavs.
If anyone can knock out the Warriors, it will be the Houston Rockets.