Cleveland Cavaliers (23-8)
vs. Houston Rockets (18-12)
Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH
Sunday, December 27, 2009
6:00 PM ET
WTAM 1100 AM, FS Ohio/HD
The Cleveland Cavaliers will look to build off their positive momentum from their victory over the Lakers in returning home tonight to face the Houston Rockets. A pesky team with no seven-footers at all, these modified Rockets are way different from the T-Mac team of great expectations. Orchestrated by Oregon product Aaron Brooks, this is a crafty unit that finds ways to win ball games despite not being spectacularly good at any particular facet of the game.
Without Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady or Chase Budinger, this is a very banged up franchise similar to the Portland Trail Blazers. Despite all of the crazy injuries however, the Cavs cannot afford to look down upon this matchup and expect to play with little intensity. During the LeBron James-era, Houston owns a 10-3 record against this franchise and has pretty much held LBJ in check every single time. It will be a dog fight no matter what tonight as the Cavaliers look to protect their home court and extend their winning streak to four games.
Projected Starting Lineups
-G Mo Williams (17.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 4.8 apg, 17.28 PER)
-G Anthony Parker (7.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.8 apg, 9.72 PER)
-F LeBron James (28.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 7.9 apg, 29.70 PER)
-F J.J. Hickson (7.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 0.3 apg, 13.65 PER)
-C Shaquille O’Neal (10.2 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.4 apg, 15.18 PER)
Key Reserves: Anderson Varejao, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Delonte West, Daniel Gibson, Jamario Moon
Injuries: Leon Powe (out)
-G Aaron Brooks (17.1 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 5.3 apg, 14.81 PER)
-G Shane Battier (8.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.3 apg, 10.80 PER)
-F Trevor Ariza (16.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 3.5 apg, 12.79 PER)
-F Luis Scola (14.7 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 1.9 apg, 17.96 PER)
-C Chuck Hayes (5.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.7 apg, 13.34 PER)
Key Reserves: Kyle Lowry, Carl Landry, David Andersen, Jermaine Taylor
Injuries: Yao Ming (out), Tracy McGrady (out), Chase Budinger (out)
Team Efficiency Stats
- Offense (100.3 ppg, 41.6 rpg, 48.2 FG%, 21.1 apg, 14.6 topg, Eff: 107.3, Rank: 7)
- Defense (94.2 ppg, 39.2 rpg, 43.3 FG%, Eff: 99.9, Rank: 5)
- Offense (100.9 ppg, 42.2 rpg, 44.6 FG%, 21.9 apg, 14.3 topg, Eff: 104.2, Rank: 16)
- Defense (99.4 ppg, 42.0 rpg, 46.7 FG%, Eff: 103.3, Rank: 15)
1. Houston 95 vs. Cleveland 85 – 12/9/2009 [box]
During the second game of their mini three-game Eastern Conference road trip, Houston defeated the lowly New Jersey Nets last night by the final score of 98-93. Carl Landry scored 26 points off the bench while Trevor Ariza nearly ended up with a triple double in finishing with 13 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. It was an uplifting victory for the franchise as troubled star Tracy McGrady left the team earlier in the day after being told by head coach Rick Adelman that his minutes would not increase after recently returning from an injury. As Ric Bucher tweeted during the day, his future in H-Town is all but finished.
In my mind, there are only two things that separate this Houston Rockets team from a bottom feeder like the Nets. First of all, there is the bench led by Carl Landry, that can absolutely dominate opposing teams. When former volleyball star Chase Budinger is healthy as well, this team is fairly loaded despite not having one legitimate superstar. Nobody in their starting lineup has a PER better than 18 but Landry is a stud in the making, with a 24.08 PER while also leading the league in scoring in the fourth quarter. The second reason why this team is still competitive is their perimeter defense led by Trevor Ariza and Shane Battier. Many people argued that Ron Artest was the reason why LBJ always struggled against the Rockets, but Battier seems to be the one constant force who continues to heckle LeBron.
It will be crucial for the Cavaliers to find a way to win the battle of the bench despite having Landry on the opposing side of the aisle. Having five healthy bench players as opposed to just three regular rotation guys for the Rockets will be an advantage and that plays into the hustle capabilities of guys like Anderson Varejao, Jamario Moon and Delonte West. Looking for a fourth straight win, the Cavs would also benefit from doing exactly what New Jersey did yesterday, forcing Trevor Ariza into long jumpers as he was just 1-for-8 from threes last night. The UCLA product is a rising star at only 24 years old, but needs to understand his role on the team better as a scorer and not just a shooter.
Finally, from the Cavs perspective, Mo Williams will be the key once again. The victory over Los Angeles improved the team’s record to 40-7 all-time (including playoffs) when the point guard scores 20 points or more in a game. This just shows that the Cavs will go as far as Mo leads them this season, and as of recently, his scoring has been off the charts. Cleveland will also look to take advantage of the height disparity in going up against 6’6″ center Chuck Hayes. With two seven-footers including the Wild Thing off the bench, it will be vital for Cleveland to knock Hayes completely out of the game while focusing on the talented duo of Luis Scola and Landry. If the Cavs can control the battle for points in the paint yet again while getting good production from Mo, this should be an easy victory.
Next Game for the Cavaliers
Tuesday, December 29 @ Atlanta Hawks
7:00 PM ET
WTAM 1100 AM, FS Ohio/HD