The Cleveland Cavaliers led by as many 20 points in the first half on Tuesday and took a 19-point lead into the half against the Houston Rockets. With LeBron James sitting out to rest, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love were aggressive and set the tone for everyone else on the floor. At the half, it looked as if the Cavs were well on their way to a win without LeBron.
That, though, didn't happen. In the second half, the Rockets came out aggressive and slowly whittled away the Cavs lead. In the fourth, James Harden took over the game and scored 18 of his 27 points in the final quarter. As a team, Cleveland was outscored 35-16 in the fourth.
The issue for the Cavs in the fourth was that Irving and Love largely didn't dictate the offense like they did in the first half. In their place, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Matthew Dellavedova took a number of shots - many of which were open - and didn't make many. For the game, the Smith, Shumpert and Dellavedova trio were 7-27 from the field and 2-12 from deep. As a team, the Cavs shot just 36 percent from the field and 35 percent from deep.
Irving attempted to rally the Cavs late,and hit a deep three-pointer with 1:30 left to cut Houston's lead to 98-97. Harden missed a three on the next possession and it looked like the Cavs might still have a shot at winning a game they controlled for the first 24 minutes.
The Rockets, though, responded essentially clinched the game with 17 seconds left when Love joined Shumpert near half court in an attempt to trap Harden and force a turnover. Harden, though, snapped a quick pass to Patrick Beverly on the wing who then found a wide-open Trevor Ariza in the corner. Ariza buried the three to give Houston a four-point lead.
For the year, the Cavs are 1-3 without LeBron and 4-13 overall in the last two seasons. The Cavs return to the court Thursday at home against the Brooklyn Nets. With the loss to the Rockets, the Cavs' lead over the Toronto Raptors for the East's No. 1 seed is back down to 2.5 games with eight games left in Cleveland's season.