Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Houston Rockets: Preview, Analysis and Predictions

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Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Houston Rockets: Preview, Analysis and Predictions
USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Rockets (37-31) and Cleveland Cavaliers (22-46) experienced very different emotions after their games on Wednesday night. The Cavaliers blew a 27-point lead at home against the streaking Miami Heat and fell 98-95.

The Rockets (37-31) picked up a huge 100-93 win over the Utah Jazz. The win gave them the season series over the Jazz, which could prove to be crucial in deciding the final two playoff spots in the Western conference.

This is the second time these two teams have met this season, The Rockets overcame 30 points from Kyrie Irving on Jan. 5 to win 112-104 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

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This time the Rockets will play host and look to complete the season-series sweep. Here's how you can catch the action, as well as a deeper look at the game's key matchups and my prediction.

 

When: Friday, 8 p.m. ET

Where: Toyota Center in Houston, TX.

TV: Local - Fox Sports Ohio in Cleveland and Comcast Houston in Houston, also available on NBA League Pass

Live Stream: League Pass

 

Injury Story

The Rockets are one of the few teams with no major injuries to report, per CBSSports.com, but the Cavs are extremely banged up.

  • Kyrie Irving PG - Shoulder - Out until at least early April
  • Dion Waiters SG - Knee - Out until at least late March
  • Anderson Varejao C - Knee, lung Out for season

Obviously the Cavs miss Irving a ton. They may be better suited shutting him down for the remainder of the season. The team doesn't have much to play for, and risking his long-term health isn't worth it.

 

Probable Starters

 

USA TODAY Sports
Shaun Livingston: 14 points and six assists vs. Heat on Wednesday

Cavs

PG - Shaun Livingston

SG - Wayne Ellington

SF - Alonzo Gee

PF - Tristan Thompson

C - Tyler Zeller

 

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Jeremy Lin: 24 points, 6 assists vs. Jazz on Wednesday

Rockets

PG - Jeremy Lin

SG - James Harden

SF - Chandler Parson

PF - Donatas Motiejunas

C - Omer Asik

 

The Plot


Can the Cavs Rebound or Will the Rockets Suffer a Letdown?

Chris Chambers/Getty Images

Coming off such a painful loss, the Cavs are challenged with trying to duplicate their first-half effort against the Heat on Wednesday.

They outscored the Miami 55-34 before the wheels came off in the second half.

Head coach Byron Scott must try to get his team to focus on the positives from Wednesday's effort, but without Irving, defeating the Rockets will be even tougher.

Houston picked up an emotional and important win over the Jazz on Wednesday, but they must be careful not to look past the Cavs. Any team can knock you off on any given night.

If they come out lacking intensity, they could be ripe for the picking.

 

Key Stat

 

Cavs are 5-14 This Season Without Irving

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

It's tough for the Cavs to win with all their players healthy, but when their young star has been out of the lineup, they've only won just over 17 percent of their games.

On the road they are just 2-7 without him, so this figures to be a very tough game for Cleveland to win.

 

Key Matchup

 

James Harden vs. Wayne Ellington

Jason Miller/Getty Images

In defeat, Ellington played very well against the Heat. He was aggressive, and he made shots. He finished with 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

He'll need another strong effort to try to off-set Harden's routine scoring excellence. He lit the Cavs up for 29 points in their first meeting, and he's been one of the most consistent scorers in the NBA this season.

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Ellington may not be able to match him point-for-point, but he needs to at least have a solid showing to give the Cavs some much-needed scoring punch.

 

My Prediction

The Rockets will win this one, but I was impressed with the Cavs' effort against the Heat. They came came back late in the fourth, even after the Heat had erased the huge deficit and built a seven-point lead of their own.

In the end, they were just out-manned as they will be again in this one.

 

Follow Brian Mazique and Franchiseplay on YouTube and Twitter for reactions, analysis and news from the world of sports and sports video games

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