Dwyane Wade’s criticism of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ starting five was answered in a big way on Tuesday, at least offensively. Lebron James and his fellow Cavaliers starters will try to keep up their high level of production when they visit James Harden and the Houston Rockets on Thursday.
Wade called out the starters after the four non-James members of the five combined for 25 points on 9-of-29 shooting in a 117-115 loss to the lowly Atlanta Hawks on Sunday, and it seemed to light a fire under the team ahead of Tuesday’s clash with the Milwaukee Bucks. “In my experience, what I’ve learned is you’re going to go through different things throughout the year,” Wade told reporters after the 124-119 win over Milwaukee. “This is the first one. The first 10 or 11 games we went through something. ... But now we move on from this phase, hopefully, and we move into another one. Then we will have another something and we will have to figure out as a team how to get over that. But at the end of the day, we’re all getting over it together.” The starters and the bench will have to score to keep pace with the Rockets, who are hitting their stride with wins in three straight. Houston scored a season high in a 137-110 win over the Utah Jazz on Sunday as Harden did his best James impression with 56 points and 13 assists.
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ABOUT THE CAVALIERS (5-6): The biggest jump among the starters from Sunday to Tuesday came from power forward Kevin Love, who exploded for a season-high 32 points and 16 rebounds after managing four points and four boards against the Hawks before leaving the loss with an illness. The former All-Star attacked the basket on Tuesday and went 14-of-16 from the free-throw line and 9-of-14 from the floor without attempting a 3-pointer. J.R. Smith took a step forward as well and scored 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting after totaling 15 points on 5-of-15 over the previous three contests.
ABOUT THE ROCKETS (8-3): Harden went 19-of-25 from the floor and 7-of-8 from 3-point range en route to his career-high 56 points against the Jazz. “I was just shooting it, I don’t know,” Harden told reporters. “I don’t really pay too much attention to it. I just try to take good shots and pretty much make the right decision. Obviously, I’m going to make mistakes, but as long as I have that mindset, I’ll be good.” Harden is getting plenty of support from shooting guard Eric Gordon, who is averaging 23.1 points on the season and knocked down 6-of-11 from 3-point range on Sunday.
1. James will pass Michael Jordan (1,072) on the career list for games played on Thursday.
2. Rockets PG Chris Paul (knee) has not played since opening night but is “rounding second and pretty close to third” in his recovery, according to coach Mike D’Antoni.
3. The home team took each of the two meetings last season.
PREDICTION: Rockets 133, Cavaliers 129