Cavaliers-Rockets Preview

The Houston Rockets hoped their longest homestand of the season

would allow them to avoid the inconsistency that’s plagued them at

times, and they’ve played well in three of four thus far.

Houston, though, can’t afford to take short-handed Cleveland

lightly – particularly after the Cavaliers’ latest effort.

The Rockets look for a 10th win in their last 12 home games as

they continue this seven-game stretch at the Toyota Center on

Friday night.

While the up-and-down Rockets haven’t won more than three in a

row or lost more than two straight since mid-January, they seem to

be taking advantage of an opportunity to build some momentum on

their home floor.

Houston has won nine of 11 at the Toyota Center, and on

Wednesday bounced back from one of their worst losses of the

season. After getting trounced by 30 against Golden State on

Sunday, the Rockets (37-31) built a 26-point lead before hanging on

for a 100-93 win over Utah.

James Harden had 29 points and hit 17 of 18 from the foul line,

while Jeremy Lin added 24 on 9-of-13 shooting.

The Rockets, who hold the No. 7 spot in the Western Conference,

extended their lead to 1 1/2 games over the eighth-place Los

Angeles Lakers and three games over the ninth-place Jazz. They also

moved to within one game of the Warriors for sixth place.

Now Houston will try to keep it going against the Central

Division-worst Cavaliers (22-46) before wrapping up the homestand

with a pair of first-place clubs in San Antonio and Indiana.

“We’re still not locked into the playoffs yet, so every game

counts,” Harden said. “We have to bring our attention to detail to

every game. (Friday) is a very big game for us.”

Playing without top scorers Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and

Anderson Varejao, Cleveland led by as many as 27 points in the

third quarter on Wednesday before Miami stormed back for a 98-95

victory to extend its winning streak to 24 games.

Wayne Ellington finished with a team-high 20 points and Tristan

Thompson added 18 and eight rebounds in the team’s fourth straight


The Cavs won’t have any of their top three scorers Friday, which

doesn’t bode well considering they’ve lost 20 of 23 in Houston –

including five straight by an average of 15.4 points. Cleveland

also has lost 11 of its last 12 on the road versus West


“When we line up, we expect to go out there and win, regardless

of who is out there,” coach Byron Scott said.

Harden, who leads the NBA in free-throw makes (8.8) and attempts

(10.2) per game, hit 14 of 15 from the line on the way to 29 points

and added a career-high seven steals in a 112-104 victory at

Cleveland on Jan. 5.

The Rockets are averaging a league-best 110.0 points at home and

may be able to maintain that pace against the Cavaliers, who have

allowed 105.8 points per game in their last 14 road contests.

Irving finished with 30 points, Alonzo Gee had 18 and Thompson

added 14 and 16 rebounds in the first meeting, but Cleveland shot

just 39.6 percent from the floor.

Thompson is playing well heading into this contest, totaling 38

points on 17-of-31 shooting and 19 boards in his last two