A few weeks ago the Rockets welcomed in the Cavaliers, and evened the 2017 season series 1-1.
The Rockets just flat out played harder and wanted this game more that the Cavaliers. Both teams entered the game being in a rough 6 game stretch, the Rockets were 3-3 and the Cavaliers were 2-4. They were also trying to maintain their playoff seeding, and not to mention it was an ESPN national TV game. All the motivation to win was there in this late season contest.
The Rockets won the offensive rebounding battle 20 to 4, and the turnover battle 15 to 6. This is ultimately what allowed the Rockets to close out the victory. The Cavs were missing a key piece to puzzle without Kevin Love, however you would still expect a little more from the reigning champs.
The Cavs didn’t have a sense of urgency in getting inside and boxing out, the Rockets consistently had guys close to the basket in position to rebound.
James Harden for most part was driving to the rim and finishing with relative ease. Defensively the center spot is a weak point for the Cavs because Tristan Thompson and Channing Frye are power forwards playing out of position. Thompson was often being forced to switch on to guarding Harden and was getting the step on him routinely.
I expected for Lebron to at some point in the last minutes of the game to attempt to take the game over but it didn’t happen.He seemed to be content with only taking his shots from the outside instead of being aggressive and challenge inside near the rim. Nene entered the game with 4:41 seconds left in the 4th quarter and was at center for the rest of the way. He played well, and the Rockets telecast justifiably so named the “Sleeper of the game” is the postgame.
The pivotal sequence late in the 4th quarter was when Beverly was matched on Lebron James and Nene came over to help just as Lebron was passing, steals the pass and on the other end Anderson finds Beverly for the 3-pointer.
James Harden had a signature game with another triple-double against fellow MVP candidate Lebron James. The next leading scorer was Ryan Anderson with 16 points, Beverly/Gordon each with 13 points, and Nene/Ariza with 12 each. There were six Rockets players with at least 6 rebounds. Really everybody from the regular rotation had solid contributions to the victory other than Sam Dekker who only played 5 minutes.
This win was even more impressive because the Rockets early in the 3rd quarter were down 14 points which was the largest deficit in the game. They finished the 3rd quarter scoring 21 points to the Cavaliers 5 points.
A blemish from the game was the missed free throws in crunch time, luckily it didn’t come back to bite them in this contest.
For the Rockets this was a huge win after having been a few games removed from losing back to back games to the Spurs and Jazz. James Harden gave his MVP case a major boost with this win over a top team.
This was a big win indeed, but the Rockets need to keep in mind that this was without Kevin Love. Lebron and Kyrie almost did enough on their own with little help from their role players to get the win. Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith, and Deron Williams combined to shoot 5-21 from the field. If the Rockets are to face the Cavs in the future they can’t bank on a repeat of this type of performance. The Cavs were also careless/lazy passing the ball and it resulted in some easily avoidable turnovers. The Rockets need to channel this victory in the most productive way possible.