Game Day: Houston Rockets begin 5-game road trip in Cleveland

Mar 29, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) blocks and steals the ball from Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) during the first quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Mar 29, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) blocks and steals the ball from Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) during the first quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Rockets launch a 5-game road trip in Cleveland facing the Championship Cavaliers.

Entering the second week of the 2016-17 season the Houston Rockets boast a 2-1 record. Although an extremely small sample size the 3 games offers insight into areas the Rockets must improve especially with an extended road trip.

As the old saying goes, you can’t win a championship in November, but success during this period can help your positioning in April.  Furthermore building consistent habits early is more favorable.

A look at the league rankings shows Houston has work to do defensively where they rank 22nd. The potent offense that was on display in preseason hasn’t completely translated in the regular season, though the Rockets rank a respectable 8th.  Most pundits reserve judgement until the 20 game mark, however it does give teams benchmarks to measure objectives against.

Facing the still unbeaten champs will offer a true litmus test for the Rockets as they’ll be pushed  on both ends of the court.  Cleveland rank 2nd defensively and 10th offensively.

Houston’s work is definitely cut out for them, but stealing a win in Cleveland is exactly what the Rockets hope to do as they begin their extended road trip.

With that,  SCS offers the Game Day Countdown

Oct 5, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; A fan holds a sign of J.R. Smith before the game between the Orlando Magic and the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Draft Picks

Round 1: N/A

Round 2: Kay Felder (54)

Free Agents:

Incoming:

Exiting: 

Re-upping:

Oct 25, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) reacts to a basket in the second half against the New York Knicks at Quicken Loans Arena. Cleveland won 117-88. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Rockets Starting 5:

(stats from 2015-16)

Point Guard:  James Harden – 29 points, 7.5  assists, 6.1 rebounds, 2016 SCS Harden preview

Shooting Guard:  Eric Gordon – 15.2 points, 2.7  assists, 2.2 rebounds Media Day

Small ForwardTrevor Ariza – 12.7 points,  2.3 assists,  4.5  rebounds, 2016 SCS Ariza preview

Power Forward: Ryan Anderson – 17.0 points  1.1 assists, 6.0 rebounds  Anderson Media Day

CenterClint Capela – 7.0 points, 0.6 assists, 6.4 rebounds,  2016 SCS Capela preview

Cleveland Cavaliers Starting 5:

Point Guard: Kyrie Irving -19.6  points, 4.7 assists, 3.0 rebounds

Shooting Guard:  JR Smith -12.4  points,  1.7 assists, 2.8  rebounds

Small Forward:  LeBron James – 25.3  points, 6.8 assists, 7.4  rebounds

Power Forward: Kevin Love – 16.0  points, 9.9  rebounds, 2.4 assists

Center: Tristan Thompson – 7.8  points, 9.0  rebounds, 0.8 assists

Mar 29, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) drives on Houston Rockets guard K.J. McDaniels (32) during the second quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Rockets Bench:

Guards:

Wings:

Bigs:

Cleveland Cavaliers Bench:

Guards: Iman Shumpert, *Kay Felder, Jordan McRae

Wings: Mike Dunleavy, Richard Jefferson, DeAndre Liggins, James Jones

Bigs: Chris Andersen, *Channing Frye

Mar 1, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) and Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) during the game at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Walking Wounded:

Houston Rockets:

  • Patrick Beverley – rotoworld reports Beverley is ahead of schedule following the knee scope and anticipates a mid November return.
  • James Harden is listed as probable after tweaking his ankle versus the Mavericks in the home opener.

Cleveland Cavaliers:

  • Kay Felder has been removed from the injury list following his time spent on the concussion protocol program.
  • Channing Frye is listed as out indefinitely dealing with personal issues, however he tweaked something during the Raptors game which may also be a factor.

Injury reports as per rotoworld

Venue:

Tuesday November 1st at at Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH, 6PM EST/ 5PM CT

NOTE: DUE TO THE WORLD SERIES THE GAME WILL BEGIN AN HOUR EARLIER THAN ORIGINALLY SCHEDULED.

Radio and Television Providers:

In Houston and Area: Root Sports

Nationwide: NBA TV

Worldwide: NBA League Pass

Radio: 790 AM

Game Time: 5:00 PM CT and 6:00 PM EST

Jan 15, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) drives to the basket during the third quarter against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. The Cavaliers won 91-77. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Keys For Rockets:

Focus on defense: The Cavaliers are not a team the Rockets can take for granted by napping even for one quarter. With Harden probable, but playing on a sore ankle playing team defense over 48 minutes is crucial.

Capitalize on areas of strength: While the Cavaliers have Tristan Thompson there is a real advantage for the Rockets to take it to Cleveland in the paint. In spite of the Cavaliers second ranked defense they are susceptible at the rim. Furthermore Cleveland rank dead last for second chance points of which many can be gained in the paint on offensive rebounding.

Harden though hobbled may be able to gain real advantages via ball movement especially with consistent pressure on Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert who have shown weaknesses at trapping guards, transition and even man to man coverage.

Ultimately if the Rockets can get the ball and players moving it will present issues for the Cavs. Of Cleveland’s first 3 games the Raptors were the only team who came close and also held them under 100 points. Toronto mixed drives, pushed the ball in transition and mid range shots, but ultimately missed too many wide open shots which ultimately cost them the game.

Houston has the offensive  fire power and versatility, but can they play 48 minutes of team defense?

Bench Versatility: Again, Cleveland has depth, but there are areas where they can be bested specifically if their guards are pushed to defend throughout the full 48 and if Houston is active in the passing lanes.

Fortunately, Anderson’s missing defense may not be as much of an issue in this contest as he and Kevin Love may be a wash (slight edge to Love). But, it will be important for D’Antoni to utilize the teams top energy players and defenders to limit one of  James, Irving and Love.

For that very reason expect to see ample minutes from K.J. McDaniels.  Platooning Capela and Nene to get Thompson in early foul trouble would also be beneficial.

Remember the game begins an hour earlier due to the World Series so plan accordingly.

Team Previews:

Get a full breakdown of both teams via these links:

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