Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Houston Rockets: Competing without emotion

USA TODAY Sports

The Cavaliers are coming off a tough loss against the Miami Heat and now have to go on the road to face another playoff team in the Houston Rockets. There's no time to rest, these guys are going to be running.

What better way to rebound after a tough loss than going on the road to play the fastest paced team in the NBA? Wait, that doesn't seem right. Whatever. Either way, the Cavs get a tough draw tonight when they have to take on James Harden and the playoff bound Rockets.

Who? Cleveland Cavaliers (22-46) at Houston Rockets (37-31)

When? 8:00 PM Eastern

Where? Toyota Center -- Houston, TX

Where on my eyeballs? Fox Sports Ohio / NBA League Pass

Tickets? Cleveland Cavaliers tickets

Music?

FRIDAY!!!

So, Wednesday night is in the past. The Cavaliers had that relatively epic letdown against the Miami Heat and now have to try to push onward and finish off the season strong. It was certainly an emotional loss for the fans. And it was probably pretty emotional for the players as well. They were shorthanded, competed admirably, but couldn't seal the deal. Now, they'll have to play another game against another good team. And they're still shorthanded. But this time there's no extra boost from the crowd or emotional incentive to get amped up for the game. The Cavs play the Miami Heat in Cleveland one more time this year, but other than that it may be tough to get that intensity each and every night.

Without Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters in the lineup, Byron Scott has to work extra hard to come up with combinations that can generate offense and energy. The guys that are healthy have to be able to get themselves pumped up and ready to compete while knowing that they're at a significant disadvantage without Kyrie and Dion. Against a team like the Houston Rockets, this is especially important.

Houston plays at the fastest pace in the league, shoots a ton of threes, and has everything to play for. They're probably safely in the playoffs, but it's still a race for positioning. They need every win they can get and will most definitely be looking to defend their home court. They know that a home loss to a lottery team like the Cavs could really hurt them. it's not the Heat, but the Cavs have to have the mindset that they're going to push every team to the brink and play that spoiler role down the stretch.

With March Madness upon us and talk of draft prospects everywhere, it's hard not to think about tanking. While it is technically beneficial for the Cavs to lose games now and try to better their draft position, that doesn't mean they can just mail it in. Byron Scott and Chris Grant have some tough decisions to make this offseason with regards to re-signing some players. Those guys are playing for contracts from both the Cavs and other teams throughout the NBA. Marreese Speights simply cannot afford to be getting ejected for stupid crap and then giving mediocre effort as one of the Cavs only healthy big men.

I'd like to see the Cavs make some strides defensively over the next couple of weeks. I know we've been saying this all season but it has yet to happen. The offense really came along when most guys were healthy and they had an actual bench, but the defense remained horrible. The effort was certainly there against Miami, but far too many breakdowns and miscommunications remained. A team like the Rockets is really going to test the Cavs defensively. Any failure to rotate properly on the perimeter or get back in transition will be exploited. These games don't mean a whole lot as far as wins and losses go, but could go a long way towards building a strong basketball culture in Cleveland.

James Harden is really good. Jeremy Lin isn't as good, but seems to go crazy when he plays the Cavs. The Rockets purposely avoid straight post ups or guys who clog the lane. They want to run and they want to space the floor. That's not a good matchup for the Cavs, but we'll see.

I have a fairly significant man-crush on Chandler Parsons. Just wanted to get that out there.

Fear the Sword's Fearless Prediction

I'm not as afraid of an emotional letdown as I may have indicated earlier. I think Byron will do a good job at getting the players ready for this game. I just don't think they'll have enough to keep up with the Rockets' high-powered offense. The pace of this game should benefit guys like Shaun Livingston and Tyler Zeller, but Luke Walton? Not so much. Rockets win 111-103.

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