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Wrap-Up -- The Rockets might have taken the Wine & Gold lightly when they rolled into The Q back in late November. They didn’t make that same mistake on Friday night.
Houston came out swinging in the rematch – scoring 42 points on 61 percent shooting in the first quarter and barely looking back from there, riding another monster effort from James Harden and sending the Cavaliers to their 12th straight defeat with the 141-113 decision.
Unlike some of the competitive contests over the course of the Cavs’ recent skein, this one was never close. Cleveland took a 5-0 lead and it went downhill quickly from there – with Harden keying a 28-8 run that put Cleveland in a 20-point bind by the end of one.
Harden needed just three quarters of work to fully torment the Cavaliers – notching his sixth triple-double of the season, finishing with 43 points on 12-of-24 shooting, including 8-of-16 from deep and 11-of-11 from the stripe to go with 12 assists and 10 boards.
In two matchups with the Wine & Gold this season, the reigning MVP averaged 42.5 points, 12.5 assists and 7.0 boards per.
Despite the record(s), the Cavaliers have traditionally struggled in Houston – and this year’s visit was no exception. The Wine & Gold have gone 14-51 as franchise in Space City and have won exactly five games there dating back to 1983.
All five Rockets’ starters plus Brandon Knight off the bench tallied double-figures as the Wine & Gold surrendered 140-plus points for the second straight game.
The Cavaliers got another big effort from their second unit – outscoring the Rockets’ reserves, 59-43. Four second unit players registered double-figures on Wednesday in New Orleans and three more did so again in Houston.
Ante Zizic – getting some extended minutes with Larry Nance Jr. on the shelf for the next 2-4 weeks – led the Wine & Gold with 18 points and eight boards, going 6-of-8 from the floor and 6-of-6 from the stripe, adding a pair of steals in 24 minutes of work off the bench.
Cedi Osman followed up with 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting, adding three boards and an assist.
Alec Burks and Collin Sexton were the two other Cleveland starters to net double-figures – with Sexton notching 14 points on 4-of-10 shooting to go with five assists and Burks adding 13 points, seven rebounds, four assists and a pair of blocks.
Jordan Clarkson went 5-of-15 from the field to finish with 12 points to go with three boards and a steal. Jalen Jones was the only other Cavalier in double-figures – finishing with 12 points of his own, going 3-of-5 from beyond the arc in the loss.
Cedi scores 15 on 6-of-10 shooting from the field.
Turning Point -- The turning point in this one came, unfortunately, within the first few minutes of the affair.
A floater by Tristan Thompson and a triple by Alec Burks opened the scoring on Friday night, but that’s as good as it would get for the Wine & Gold – who trailed by 20 points after one quarter, by 28 at intermission and by as many as 44 in the second half.
Houston took its first double-digit lead less than nine minutes into the affair on James Harden's back-to-back bombs. Cleveland got back to within a dozen late in the first period, but the Rockets closed the quarter on a 12-4 run to put the Cavs in a hole they wouldn’t climb out of.
By the Numbers – 13.6, .490. .500 … Alec Burks’ scoring average, shooting percentage and three-point percentage over his 10 games, netting double-figures in seven of those games, averaging 4.5 boards and 2.9 assists per.
Up Next -- Now two games into their longest trip of the season, the Wine & Gold head to Tinseltown for a Sunday night showdown with the Lakers on Sunday night. The roadie rolls on with the Cavaliers heading to Portland on Wednesday for a mid-week meeting with Damian Lillard and the Blazers. Cleveland wraps up the road trip next weekend – taking on the Jazz in Salt Lake City on Friday night before completing the junket on Saturday night in Denver against the West-leading Nuggets. The Cavs return to The Q to take on the Bulls in an MLK Day matinee.