The NBA Champions arrive in Houston tonight for a nationally televised game. I don’t expect Tyronn Lue to rest his stars. As I type this, the Cavs lead the Orlando Magic at halftime with both LeBron James and Kyrie Irving playing normal minutes.
The Rockets finally got back on track with a win over the Chicago Bulls in their building. After struggling to hit shots consistently or get stops against the Spurs and Jazz, Houston finally buckled down and held the Bulls to just 30 points across the middle quarters while Ryan Anderson led a welcome three-point barrage.
We know the story for the Rockets: if they make threes and gets stops, they’re basically impossible to defeat. If either of those don’t go their way, they’re probably taking a loss.
For the Cavs, they are 42-21 and sit 2.5 games ahead of the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards for the 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. They’re still expected to emerge from the East in the playoffs, but suddenly other teams look like legitimate threats. The aforementioned teams and Toronto loom as difficult tasks in May for Cleveland.
As long as the Cavaliers have LeBron and Kyrie though, they’re a threat to beat everyone. You don’t need me to spend more space talking about how great those two are. Tristan Thompson is a rebound machine and seems unaffected by the Khloe Kardashian Curse that afflicted James Harden last season. Richard Jefferson and Iman Shumpert and solid wing shooters that allow the Cavs to space the floor for their stars.
Off the bench, Cleveland still has J.R. Smith, Channing Frye, Deron Williams, and Derrick Williams coming off the bench. Kyle Korver has experienced foot soreness so he’s missed Cleveland’s last two contests. The Rockets have struggled against teams that have length and can hit threes at a similar rate. The Cavs aren’t long, but they have the shooters to play in a shootout with Houston. Oh, and Frye kills the Rockets.
I expect the Rockets to show up tonight. James Harden relishes playing against All-Star competition and seems to always bring his A game when fellow MVP candidates are on the floor. He’s been blocked three times at the rim in the last three games, but I love that he’s still staying aggressive. He cannot afford to start worrying about being on someone else’s highlight reel. He has to make his own.
Tip-off is at 8pm CT on ESPN.
Final note: Shoutout to Tom, whom my father and I met at Pub Fiction for Rockets Trivia. He’s a super cool dude and knowledgeable Rockets fan. We placed in third despite being a small group against groups of six or more. My dad won a pink James Harden beard, and I’ll try to get a picture of him wearing it for a future preview.