For a quarter, the Cleveland Cavaliers were competitive with the Houston Rockets. Although they were down, they did hold the lead at times and were competitive with the Rockets. But then, with no real warning, the Cavaliers drove themselves off to the cliff on their way 116-78.
Shaun Livingston led the Cavaliers with 14 points, while Wayne Ellington added 13. James Harden paced the Rockets with 20 points.
Through the first, Cleveland was only down three and were able overcome early foul trouble from Tyler Zeller to keep the game competitive. In the first, both teams did a decent job of attacking the rim. Although the Rockets had the edge, Cleveland was able to make a game of it.
But from there, the wheels fell off. The shot selection started becoming lackadaisical, as Daniel “Boobie” Gibson, Ellington and company started settling for lazy three pointers and stopped attacking the rim. The Rockets, on the other hand, continued to attack the paint and get to the rim – resulting in several easy buckets. From the second period on, the Rockets controlled every aspect of the game. They ran the floor superbly, dissecting the Cavaliers transition defense like a surgeon. And best off all, it was a team effort. Well Harden lead the team in scoring, an outstanding seven Rockets scored in double figures against the Cavaliers.
On the flip side, the Cavaliers did not play well together at all. There was no flow in their offensive game and they largely settled for three pointers. They had issues getting back on defense and they paid for it.
For the game the Rockets scored 19 points in transition and 56 points in the paint. Comparatively, the Cavaliers scored 6 points in transition and 24 points in the paint.
The game gets even uglier when you look at the Cavaliers statistics. For the game, the shot a dreadful 20.0 percent from behind the arc and 36.0 percent from the field overall. The Rockets, meanwhile, shot 34.5 percent from behind the arc and 57.1 percent from the field overall. The Rockets were also able to outrebound the Cavaliers 54-32 over 48 minutes of action.
This was a game for the Cavaliers where nothing really went their way. Going in, they knew they were going to be without both Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving. They had just taken the Miami Heat to the brink and almost ended their historic winning streak. Coming into tonight, they had a day off to rest and came into tonight with energy. After the first quarter, that simply did not happen.
With no Irving, no Waiters and no Anderson Varejao, this was a look at what kind of pieces are really on this team. Outside of decent play from Ellington and Livingston, there really was not much to like. Tristan Thompson looked lost on the floor at times. Zeller struggled in defending the paint. Gibson was 0-9 from the field – including 0-6 from behind the arc. And Marresse Speights – once a real energizing force off the bench – played slow and devoid of energy.
This was an ugly game that really puts the state of the Cavaliers in perspective. If anything, this game was sobering in the sense that the Cavaliers now have to know how bad of a basketball they truly are – and that it is not going to get better anytime soon.
The Cavaliers will next take the court on Wednesday at home against the Boston Celtics. Tip-off is at 7:00 PM.