The Cleveland Cavaliers put forth a valiant effort without LeBron James. They battled the Houston Rockets for three quarters, but in the end, they couldn't find enough scoring to stay in the game. The Rockets outscored the Cavs by 13 points in the fourth quarter to win the game, 105-93.
Kyrie Irving was sensational, and he single-handedly provided offense for the Cavs when nobody else would. He scored 34 points in the first three quarters. He finished the game with 38 points on 15-26 shooting.
Kevin Love, on the other hand, did not have his best night. He didn't make a field goal in the first half. He finished the game 7-19 from the floor, and he did grab 16 rebounds. Without Love playing at a superstar level, the Cavs probably never had much of a chance.
J.R. Smith made his debut for the Cavs. He played hard, but it was clear that he (understandably) had no idea what he was doing out there. He finished the game with zero points on five shots -- two of which were heaves from half court at the end of quarters.
The Cavs mostly kept James Harden in check. He finished with 21 points, but he needed 18 shots to get those points.
As expected, though, the Cavs had no answer for Dwight Howard, who finished with 17 points and 19 rebounds.
This was the third loss in a row for the Cavs, as they fell to 19-17 on the season. Don't look now, but the Bucks are coming up strong in the standings, and the Cavs could find themselves in sixth place in the East before much longer.
The good news is that LeBron is expected to hopefully be back when the Cavs visit the Lakers on January 15th. And, of course, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov will eventually be added to the arsenal.
In the meantime, the Cavs have to find a way to keep their heads above water. It won't be easy on Friday night when they visit the Warriors. (The Warriors are great.)