Notebook: Rockets 116, Cavaliers 78

Posted Mar 22, 2013 11:47 PM

Matt Miller, for

THE FACTS: The Houston Rockets did not stumble into the trap known as the short-handed Cleveland Cavaliers, rolling to a 116-78 rout Friday at Toyota Center.

James Harden scored 20 points on nine shot attempts, and Omer Asik recorded his 29th double-double of the season (13 points, 11 rebounds) for the Rockets (38-31), who have won 10 of their last 12 home games and six consecutive meetings with the Cavaliers in Houston. Rookie Thomas Robinson finished with a career-high 15 points on 6-for-7 shooting, six rebounds, three steals and two blocks off the bench.

Shaun Livingston led Cleveland (22-47), which has lost five straight games overall and four in a row on the road, with 14 points and two steals. Wayne Ellington added 13 points for the Cavaliers, who scored 32 fewer points in the paint than the Rockets, were outrebounded 54-32 and shot a dismal 36.0 percent for the game.

Friday's victory, combined with the San Antonio Spurs' win over the Utah Jazz, gives Houston a four-game cushion over the ninth-place Jazz in the Western Conference standings. The Rockets, who sit just one-half game behind the sixth-place Golden State Warriors, also hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over Utah and Golden State.

QUOTABLE: "The entire defensive mindset was amazing tonight, from controlling the paint to closing out to their shooters, to everybody communicating on the defensive end. It was probably one of our best performances we've had on the defensive end all year."
-- Harden on Houston's stingy defensive effort.

THE STAT: The Rockets' defense sealed driving lanes and did not allow Cleveland to get comfortable around the basket in the second and third periods. The Cavaliers scored only 10 points on 5-for-15 (33.3 percent) shooting in the paint during this 24-minute stretch in which Houston put the game out of reach.

TURNING POINT: Houston exploited Cleveland's pick-and-roll defense early and often, but the Cavaliers looked particularly helpless during a three-minute stretch that bridged the first and second halves. The only ones who could seemingly stop the Rockets were themselves, as they either scored or committed a turnover on each of their possessions during a 12-2 run that extended their 50-41 lead to 62-43 with 10:55 left to play in the third.

QUOTABLE II: "Guys weren't communicating. We were just individuals out there. We weren't a team. ... We didn't take away anything, because I thought we were just on our heels waiting to see what they were going to do. ... You want to continue to progress as a basketball team, and tonight, I thought we took a couple steps back."
-- Cleveland coach Byron Scott on his players' lack of aggression against one of the league's most potent offenses.

HOT: The Rockets' reserves brought plenty of energy to the defensive end to help Houston create separation in the second quarter, but they also handled their counterparts on offense. Patrick Beverley, Carlos Delfino, Robinson and Greg Smith combined for 18 points on 7-for-11 shooting and outrebounded Cleveland's backups 12-4 in the first half. The Rockets, whose bench totaled 56 points, improved to 5-0 this season when their backups combine to score at least 50.

QUOTABLE III: "They [the bench] came in, and they pressured. Patrick Beverley was unbelievable guarding the point guard full-court and not letting them get into their offense."
-- Houston forward Chandler Parsons on the lift the second unit provided.

NOT: The Cavaliers saw a three-point deficit after one period grow to 15 at halftime after they were limited to 7-for-18 (38.9 percent) shooting and two points in the paint in the second quarter.

GOOD MOVE: Houston's defenders contested a large majority of the shots Cleveland took from inside of 15 feet and dared the Cavaliers to beat them with long-range jumpers. Not surprisingly, Cleveland could not connect on enough low-percentage looks at the basket to compete as it shot 33.9 percent (19-for-56) from outside the paint.

BAD MOVE: The Cavaliers' Tristan Thompson, who had scored at least 18 points in his previous two outings, could not avoid foul trouble and logged less than 26 minutes. Thompson's limited playing time likely did not have as much of an effect on Friday's game as his lack of touches. With Thompson's teammates refusing to consistently feed the 6-foot-9 forward, he attempted less than seven shots for only the third time since Dec. 15.

NOTABLE: Cleveland played without its three leading scorers -- Kyrie Irving (left acromioclavicular sprain), Anderson Varejao (season-ending surgery) and Dion Waiters (sore left knee). ... Cleveland's Alonzo Gee and Houston's Jeremy Lin are the only undrafted players in the NBA to start every game this season. ... The Cavaliers rebounded only one of 20 missed shots in the first half. ... The Rockets, who held the Cavaliers to opponent lows in scoring (78 points) and field-goal percentage (36.0 percent), have won 21 of their last 24 meetings with Cleveland at Toyota Center. ... Houston improved to 20-5 this season when it limits its opponent to less than 100 points. ... The Rockets are 14-0 when leading by at least 10 points after three quarters. ... Houston, which shot a scorching 57.1 percent (44-for-77) overall, improved to 19-2 this season when it buries at least half of its field-goal attempts. ... Cleveland fell to 6-23 against Western Conference opponents this season. ... The Cavaliers dropped to 9-25 when they score fewer points in the paint than their opponent. ... Cleveland is 2-9 in March. ... The Cavaliers dropped to 3-13 on the road when their bench scores fewer points than their opponent's reserves.

UP NEXT: For the Cavaliers: Wednesday vs. Boston, Friday vs. Philadelphia, March 31 @ New Orleans. For the Rockets: Sunday vs. San Antonio, Wednesday vs. Indiana, Friday @ Memphis.