Game 47: Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets Preview

Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

LAST TIME OUT

The Cavaliers lost to the New York Knicks 117-86 Thursday night. That’s about all I want to say about that game.

THIS TIME UP

The Opponent: Houston Rockets

Record: 31-17 (19-7 Home)

Tipoff: January 29th at 8:00 p.m. – Toyota Center

Where you can watch: Fox Sports Ohio/NBA League Pass

Where you can listen: WTAM 1100

First meeting this season

Opponent’s Blog: Space City Scoop

Injury Report

Rockets: C Omer Asik (OUT-Thigh), G Francisco Garcia (OUT-Knee), G James Harden (QUESTIONABLE-Thumb), C Greg Smith (QUESTIONABLE-Knee)

Cavaliers: C Anderson Varejao (QUESTIONABLE-knee), G Carrick Felix (OUT-Knee Fracture)

Go Harden the Paint

The Rockets might be without James Harden for this game, as he sat out the Rockets’ game against the Spurs on Tuesday with a bruised right thumb. Even though the Rockets have had two days of rest since that game, Harden still might not play because if the Rockets are going to rest him against the Spurs and Mavericks, I have to assume they’ll consider sitting him against a Cavs team they have to believe they can beat without him. If Harden plays, I can’t see a way the Cavaliers can effectively stop him defensively. Harden’s averaging nearly 24 points and six assists per game this season, and an eFG% of 50.5 percent. He’s been consistently able to finish both at the rim and and from mid-range, and while he’s not as good of a three-point shooter as he was last year, he’s still a threat from there, and no one on the Cavs is quick enough to keep him from destroying them off the dribble. If he’s playing, the Cavs might give up a ton of points to Harden. If he sits, that just means the Cavs can worry about all of the other weapons the Rockets have. Yay.

The Reeling Rebounder

Tristan Thompson had a great game last Friday against the Bucks, limiting John Henson to eight points while posting 14/10 himself. However, his last three games have been a trainwreck. Against Phoenix, Thompson had 17/13, which was decent, but he got absolutely torched in the second half by Markieff Morris, who had 27/15, and Channing Frye, who hit the back-breaking bucket for the Suns in their comeback win. He was completely shut down on Tuesday against the Pelicans, as he scored five points compared to an injured Anthony Davis’ 30 and eight blocks. Then Thursday night he scored 2 points in 22 minutes and was awful at guarding Melo. Now he gets per-36 darling Terrence Jones (15/10 with two blocks per 36), and at times, Chandler Parsons. I’m not sure what the funk Thompson has been in has been caused by, but I know it isn’t good. The Cavs already have no answer for Harden and Dwight Howard. If Parsons and Jones are torching Thompson like Markieff and Davis have done this week? This is going to be very ugly.

Lord I was Born A Gamblin’ Man

The one advantage the Cavs have here is that the Rockets turn the ball over a ton. Houston turns the ball over on 14.8 percent of their possessions, and Rockets’ games generally feature a lot of possessions, so this is particularly concerning. The Cavs, on the other hand, only turn the ball over on 13.3 percent of their possessions, the ninth best mark in the league. They’re also decent at forcing turnovers, although significantly less so when Anderson Varejao isn’t on the floor. This might be the one part of Rockets’ offense the Cavs can take advantage of. If the Cavs decided to gamble a little bit defensively, jumping passes and playing aggressively, they might be able to decidedly win the turnover battle, which would be huge for them in trying to keep this a game.

Prediction

Can’t see this one being close. Even if Harden sits, even if Varejao plays and even if Thompson has a lights-out game defensively, I can’t see the Cavs scoring with the multitude of weapons the Rockets have on the offensive end. This feels like one of those games the Cavs love to have, where it’s close for about a quarter, they get ripped to shreds in the second, and then just kind of stagger through a semi-competitive second half en route to a 17-point loss. That sounds about right, given how this week has gone.

Topics: Anderson Varejao, Cleveland Cavaliers, Luol Deng, Tristan Thompson

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