Coming off a string of tough games against the NBA’s elite, it was fair to wonder whether the Houston Rockets might suffer a letdown tonight against the lowly Cavaliers, as they did in late November when they lost 117-108 as part of a four game losing streak. It would not happen again.
Cleveland came into today’s game with the NBA’s worst record at 8-33. Without LeBron James, who they lost over the summer in free agency, the Cavs are akin to a headless chicken, capable of uncoordinated stumbles and spasms and not much else. The Rockets treated them as such, moving around and through them as if they were incorporeal and letting entropy do the rest.
James Harden in particular made use of the chaos, recording a 43-point triple-double on 24 shots while playing only the first three quarters. In a game without plot or a compelling villain Harden made it a thriller, cutting down hapless Cavaliers like John Wick would incompetent mobsters or Legolas an army of doddering orcs. Every stutter step sent feathers flying and every step back was good before it left his hands.
Joining him was, well, pretty much everybody else, as each of the eleven active players on the Rockets’ roster got in the game and scored at least four points. Even Marquese Chriss, who came into the game for some well-timed comic relief, goaltending himself and slamming the ball off the floor and then his own face, managed to score his first points since the beginning of December.
Houston took the initiative early, carrying a 20-point lead into the second quarter, and never let Cleveland back in the game. By halftime it was 28, and by the end of three it was 32. The Rockets ended up winning the game 141 to 113, tied for their second most lopsided victory of the season. They moved to 24-17 on the year, good for the sixth seed and only one game back of Oklahoma City for third in the West. Their next game is Sunday afternoon in Orlando.