Even though they’ve been without Dwight Howard, the Houston Rockets have recovered from their recent losing streak behind a balanced high-scoring attack.
Some deeper injury woes could leave the Cleveland Cavaliers hard-pressed to snap their longest home skid of the season.
With Howard questionable to return in Cleveland, the Rockets hope to move closer to grabbing home-court advantage in the first round with their third straight win Saturday night.
Houston (46-22) scored just 96.3 points per game – 10.4 below its season average – on 42.1 percent shooting while dropping a season-high three in a row at Oklahoma City, Chicago and Miami last week.
Since then, the Rockets have rediscovered their shooting touch while averaging 126.5 points with a 57.9 field-goal percentage and 29 of 63 (46.0 percent) shooting from 3-point range in home wins over Utah and Minnesota.
Terrence Jones led six players in double figures with 30 points on 11-of-15 shooting in a 124-86 win over the Jazz on Monday. James Harden then led seven Rockets in double figures with 28 points Thursday against the Timberwolves, keying a 17-0 run that led to a 129-106 victory.
Houston had a season-high 36 assists against Minnesota after posting 31 three days earlier.
"When we move the basketball like that, everyone is going to score," Harden said. "It gives each and every guy confidence to make that right pass and to shoot the basketball."
The Rockets have gone on the surge without Howard, who has missed the past two games with a left ankle strain. The eight-time All-Star, averaging 18.6 points and a team-high 12.4 rebounds, will likely be a game-time decision as Houston tries to end its longest road slide of the season.
Omer Asik totaled 24 points and 16 boards in his last two games in Howard’s place.
”Obviously we want Dwight back as soon as possible,” said forward Chandler Parsons, who had 19 points, nine rebounds and five assists Thursday. ”But Omer is so good you don’t miss much out there on the floor."
The Rockets, 1 1/2 games back of the third-place Los Angeles Clippers and 1 1/2 ahead of fifth-place Portland, have averaged 112.5 points on 50.2 percent shooting while winning five of the last six meetings with the Cavaliers (26-43).
On Feb. 1, Harden finished with 28 points and Howard added 26 in Houston’s 106-92 home win. The Rockets outscored Cleveland 62-32 in the paint and 29-10 on fast breaks.
Luol Deng and Kyrie Irving combined for 45 points in that contest, but the injury-ravaged Cavaliers could be missing both in this meeting. Irving is expected to sit at least six more games because of a strained biceps, and it’s unclear how long Deng will be out due to a sprained ankle.
Cleveland signed guard Seth Curry on Friday after dressing only nine players in a 102-95 home loss to Oklahoma City on Thursday. Dion Waiters picked up the slack with 30 points, while Spencer Hawes added 20 as the Cavaliers lost their third straight to a title contender and season-worst fourth straight at home.
"The injury bug is never an excuse," guard Jarrett Jack said. "Everyone has to deal with it and we have to step up and be ready to make plays and take on the challenge."
With a 2-7 record this month, they’ve also fallen out of striking distance from eight-place Atlanta for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Waiters had 19 points and four assists in 26 minutes off the bench last month at Houston.