Cavs Can't Catch Rockets at The Q
Wrap-Up – The shorthanded Cavaliers continued a dangerous trend on Saturday night – falling behind early to a Western Conference heavyweight and playing catch-up the rest of the way. Against Houston, the Wine and Gold dug a first-quarter hold and fell behind by 29 points before mounting a fourth quarter comeback that fell short as Cleveland dropped its fourth straight decision, 118-111, at The Q.
Three Cavaliers notched double-doubles and six players notched double-figures in Saturday’s loss. Dion Waiters led Cleveland with 26 points, going 11-for-20 from the floor in his third straight start – adding eight assists and four boards. Tyler Zeller came off the bench to add 23 points and six boards. Matthew Dellavedova notched his second straight double-double, finishing with 14 points and 10 assists. Anderson Varejao finished with 12 points and 11 boards and Tristan Thompson tallied his team-leading 30th double-double of the season with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Jarrett Jack rounded out the Cavaliers in double-figures with 11 points and six helpers.
Cleveland was still without starters Kyrie Irving (triceps) and Luol Deng (ankle) as well as reserve CJ Miles, who continues to nurse a sprained ankle. With just nine players available, newly-signed Seth Curry saw limited action off Mike Brown’s bench.
James Harden led all scorers with 37 points, netting 17 in the third period. The Cavaliers actually out-shot Houston from the floor, but the Rockets – playing without center Dwight Howard –drilled a dozen three-pointers to Cleveland’s six and outscored the Wine and Gold, 18-2, on the fast break.
Turning Point – As they had against the Warriors, Clippers and Thunder, the Cavaliers got jumped right off the opening tip and spent the rest of the quarter (and game) trying to recover. On Saturday, the high-octane Rockets ran out to a 17-4 lead before Mike Brown called his first timeout to stop the bleeding. Cleveland cut Houston’s lead to eight after one quarter and a dozen at half, but Harden’s third-quarter barrage gave the Rockets enough breathing space to coast home. The Wine and Gold never led on Saturday night.
Game Ball – Tyler Zeller – It’s been an uneven sophomore season for the former Tar Heel, who was sharp from the start on Saturday, scoring nine of his 23 points as the Cavaliers scrambled to get back in the game in the first period. Overall, Zeller was 10-of-16 from the floor, adding six boards, two assists, a steal and blocked shot.
By the Numbers – 10 … assists that Matthew Dellavedova has averaged off the bench in his last two games. He doubled-up in each contest, making him the first player to record consecutive point-assist double-doubles off the bench since John Morton in March 1991. Over his last two outings, Delly is averaging 12.5 points, including .500 (5-of-10) from the three-point line, 5.0 rebounds and 10.0 assists in 35.0 minutes per game.
Quotable – Coach Mike Brown, on his team getting off to another slow start …
”From the beginning, we’re fighting from a hole. Not only are we fighting from a hole but obviously you’re opponent has some confidence, especially offensively. So it’s like an uphill battle that you’re fighting, especially being shorthanded. We have to do a better job at beginning of games. Come out and try to hit first and not be the recipient of being hit.”
Up Next – With Saturday’s loss to Houston, the Cavaliers wrap up their longest homestand of the season and will hit the road for a Sunday night matchup with the Knicks at the Garden. On Tuesday night, the Wine and Gold welcome the Raptors to The Q, then turn around and travel to the Motor City for the second-half of a back-to-back with the Pistons. The Cavs stay on the road and head to Brooklyn for a Friday night meeting with the Nets before closing out the month of March next Sunday, when the Pacers roll in for an afternoon affair at The Q.
Postgame Interview: Dion Waiters