Rockets-Cavaliers Preview

James Harden and Kyrie Irving are among the league’s most

dynamic scorers, but one of them is getting a little more help.

Harden and the high-powered Houston Rockets will try to earn

their 11th win in 14 games and fourth in a row Saturday night by

outpacing Irving’s Cleveland Cavaliers.

Harden has been unleashed since being traded from Oklahoma City

on Oct. 27, averaging 26.3 points and topping 20 in each of his

last 15 games. With his help, Houston (19-14) is the NBA’s top

scoring team at 106.1 points per game.

Harden scored a team-best 29 points and Carlos Delfino had 22 as

the Rockets rallied from an 18-point deficit for a 115-101 win in

Milwaukee on Friday. Houston took the lead for good by outscoring

the Bucks 30-14 in the third quarter and finished shooting 54.2


“Really, that third quarter is about as good as we can play,”

coach Kevin McHale said. “We locked down on the defensive end. We

pushed it up. We got shots and made shots. Then we started blowing

some of their plays up just by being aggressive. I was really proud

of the guys.”

Irving is scoring 23.1 points per game in his second season,

which was interrupted by a fractured finger from Nov. 21-Dec. 8,

but the Cavaliers (8-26) are averaging only 94.2. Cleveland,

though, had one of its better scoring performances at Charlotte on

Friday but needed Irving’s help to escape with a 106-104 victory

and snap a three-game losing streak.

The Cavaliers point guard hit the go-ahead jumper in the final

second and scored 16 of his team-best 33 points in the fourth


“I kind of got in a zone and kept it going,” Irving said. “And

they kept feeding me and trusted me to continue to make the right


Cleveland led by 18 points in the third quarter of that game but

allowed the Bobcats to take a one-point lead with 4:43 to go.

“Our guys never seem to make it easy on us,” coach Byron Scott

said. “You know that is one thing I told them, we have to figure

out how to have a killer instinct when you have a team down like

that, don’t relax and just allow them to get back in the game. I

thought that is what we did.”

Houston has won 12 of 17 over Cleveland but lost 118-107 at

Quickens Loan Arena in the most recent matchup March 11. Irving had

21 points, six rebounds and five assists in his only matchup with

the Rockets.

Houston has lost in three of its past four visits to the

Cavaliers but it’s hoping Harden’s presence might make a

difference. While playing as a third option at best for Oklahoma

City, the swingman averaged 16.7 points on 57.1 percent shooting in

his past three matchups and has made seven of 15 shots from 3-point


Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin, who needed five stitches after a

collision with Milwaukee’s Larry Sanders on Friday, had 19 points

and 13 assists in his only game against Cleveland, a 120-103 win

for New York on Feb. 29.