Tonight’s game is one of those contests that means just a little bit more to the fans.
Cleveland fans have been on a high all year. After all, Evan Mobley is the leading candidate on most people’s rookie rankings, and he passes the eye test on defense. He’s been everything the Cavs could have asked for and more. They look at the top two picks (Cade Cunningham and Jalen Green) and thank their lucky stars that Detroit and Houston were stupid enough to pass on the star of the draft class.
Houston fans have been on a high lately. Green was starting to show signs that he was worthy of his draft pick right before he got hurt. Then the Rockets rattled off seven straight wins and Stephen Silas stopped playing Daniel Theis and started playing Alperen Sengun. The rookie big man has shown flashes of becoming a star, and he does something every night that surprises you (in a good way). They look at the lottery picks and thank their lucky stars that so many other teams passed on the star of the draft class.
Or, you know, it hasn’t even been 30 games and everyone needs to chill.
I made this point when Houston faced off against the Pistons, and it still holds true here. One game does not settle the Green/Cunningham debate, and tonight’s game will not settle the Green/Sengun/Mobley debate.
Of course, there’s another side to this coin, which is that Houston could have landed Jarrett Allen in the James Harden trade. Instead, Rafael Stone and the Rockets decided on the ultimate rebuild and asked for first round picks. That allowed Cleveland to swoop in and grab Allen, who’s been great for the Cavs as well.
Cleveland is 17-12 and sit in fourth place in the East. Houston is 9-18 and are 13th in the West. But both teams are 8-2 over their last ten games. Darius Garland has emerged as a star for the Cavs, averaging 19 points per game and shooting 38.6% from deep. Cedi Osman and Kevin Love each shoot better than 40% from three as well. Allen and Mobley inhale rebounds and protect the rim well. All five of those players, plus Lauri Markkanen and Ricky Rubio round out the seven (!) Cavs players averaging double digits. Collin Sexton was averaging double digits, but tore his meniscus early in the season and is out for the year.
Houston will be without Eric Gordon, Green, and former Cav Kevin Porter Jr. They also have Christian Wood as day-to-day. With tonight being the first of a back-to-back, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Houston let tonight’s game go and look ahead to tomorrow night’s game back in Houston against the New York Knicks.
Tip-off is at 6pm CT on AT&T SportsNet Southwest