A Cavaliers team that experienced one of its worst losses of the season on the road against the Houston Rockets decided to flip the script on their home court. Efficient shooting, timely scoring and solid second half defense propelled the Wine and Gold to a substantial victory over the 18-win, and apparently tired Rockets to the tune of 108-83.
It looked like it was going to be another one of “those” games thanks to a trip back home following a four-game stint out west. The Rockets were up 12 points early in the first quarter and appeared to be giving us another dose of quick, frustrating play. The Cavaliers, however, did not fold early. In fact, they fought back and earned every point that they had given up early on and took a three-point lead (thanks to a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Mo Williams) into halftime. From there, they went on to outscore the Rockets by 22 points in the second half, forcing the Rockets into season low territory in the third quarter.
All in all, this game came down to six key numbers.
.329 vs. .473
.320 vs. .412
.735 vs. .812
The Cavaliers topped the Rockets in field goal percentage, three-point field goal percentage and free throw percentage. Compounding the Rockets’ ineffectiveness was the fact that they were forced to take 25 three-point field goals – three more than their per-game average. The Cavaliers settled for their typical 17 per game, making seven. What doesn’t show up in the box score is that the Cavs started off 1-of-8 from three-point land, appearing to have weak legs and simply having an off night. They went on to sink six of the next nine treys, five of which were from LeBron James and Mo Williams – in a three-minute window early in the third quarter which increased their lead. The team would never look back.
The free throw percentages were important due to the fact that Houston got to the line 34 times to the Cavaliers 16. But even Shaquille O’Neal (13 points, 11 rebounds, one block) decided to chip in from the charity stripe, hitting three of his four attempts.
James finished with 29 points, five rebounds, six assists, three steals and a block. Williams was not far behind with his 20 points, five assists and four three-pointers. The bench play, once again, was solid thanks to Zydrunas Ilgauskas’ 12 points, five rebounds and two blocks. Anderson Varejao chipped in with six rebounds, four steals and two blocked shots; Jamario Moon finished with four points, four rebounds, three assists and two blocks.
Of course, the Rockets feel as if they are the only team that ever plays back to back games. Earlier this season, head coach Rick Adelmen spoke out against the NBA schedule makers. Last night, forward Shane Battier claimed his disdain for the same set of individuals.
“We don’t make excuses, but I never played a back-to-back game where you play at 7:30 the night before and play at 6 o’clock the next day,” he said. “It shows the NBA is getting creative with their scheduling, which is kudos to them.”
It will be hard for Battier to find sympathy in these parts given that they were topped by a team that has had multiple batches of the infamous “four games in five nights” scheduling.
A few of his teammates didn’t find it hard to play well as Aaron Brooks put up 23 points with three treys. Trevor Ariza and Carl Landry each finished with 11 points and totaled 11 rebounds.
It is worth pointing out that while Mo Williams has been up-and-down throughout the year, his monthly splits could not be more consistent. For the month of December, Mo has averaged 17 points, five assists, 1.6 steals and 2.3 threes per game. Over the past four games, Williams has averaged 25.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 3.3 threes as well as a steal and has played a huge role in the wins over formidable western conference opponents as the Cavs are now 11-3 against the west.
The Cavaliers have now won nine of their last 10 games. They have won four straight contests and have held four of their last six opponents under 92 points. While the home record wasn’t so hot at the onset of this season, they have won 10 in a row at Quicken Loans Arena and sit half of a game behind the conference-leading Celtics.
The next two games will be a home and home with the Atlanta Hawks who have won eight of their last 10 games.
(Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)