The Cavaliers have been great against teams that we expected to be good this year. They have been awful against teams we expected to be bad this year. Now, to be fair: some of those teams we expected to be good are at or below .500 while a few of the teams we thought would be trash are over .500, so maybe we’re all just dumb.
Regardless, the Cavs get up for big-name opponents. We’ll see if they do against the Rockets.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (5-6) at Houston Rockets (8-3)
When: 8 p.m. ET
Where: Toyota Center
Enemy Blog: The Dream Shake
Online: Watch TNT
Cavs injuries: Isaiah Thomas (OUT - hip), Tristan Thompson (OUT - calf), Derrick Rose (OUT - ankle)
Rockets injuries: Chris Paul (OUT - knee)
Three keys to the game:
- Without Chris Paul in the lineup since the season opener against the Warriors, the Rockets have reverted to last year’s playing style featuring heavy doses of James Harden at point guard but flanked by an even more complimentary supporting cast for the team’s spread pick and roll ways. The team sacrificed some shooting but adds a ton of defensive flexibility with P.J. Tucker and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. If those players are hitting the open threes Harden generates, the Cavaliers should expect a tough go in this one.
- Eric Gordon has been one of the fun stories of the season. He’s scoring like crazy, pouring in 23 points per game, though at a somewhat inefficient clip. Gordon’s attacked the rim with abandon as the secondary creator for the Rockets with Paul out. He is the kind of player that gives the Cavaliers fits, and if they don’t track him well and give him their attention, he’ll torch them.
- The Cavaliers are short on players that can handle the ball with Derrick Rose out tonight. Rose’s assist percentage has been woeful this season, but he still at least has a little juice on-ball to get to the cup. Tyronn Lue should make sure Dwyane Wade is on the floor to get the Cavs into their offense every second LeBron sits tonight, and he should probably ensure Kevin Love is out there too after his best performance of the game against the Bucks.
Iman Shumpert vs James Harden: Shumpert fancies himself a dominant on-ball defender, and while the numbers don’t always back that up, he can have his moments. If he’s able to harass Harden into an inefficient night and fight through picks to give the Cavaliers defense a chance at the point of attack, it’ll go a long way. If he gets hung up early and often, the Rockets might get up 50 three-point attempts. If they do, the Cavs almost certainly won’t win.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
I keep picking the Cavs to lose, but this one isn’t out of spite. The Rockets are really good and the things they’re good at, the Cavs haven’t proved they can stop. Rockets 126, Cavs 119.