Rockets 120, Cavs 88 - No Contest

By Forrest Walker on February 3, 2018

The Houston Rockets just obliterated the Cleveland Cavaliers and it wasn't even close. LeBron James and the Cavaliers have made it to the NBA Finals for the past three seasons, and won a championship a scant 19 months ago. James Harden and the Rockets made them look like a joke. More importantly, they made themselves look like a joke. The sun is setting on this Cavs team and the Rockets are standing tall at high noon.

The most notable element of this game was clearly the 32-point deficit that the Cavs lost by, an embarrassment against any team. It was especially grim to lose to James Harden and give more ammunition for arguments that Harden should be MVP rather than LeBron. The Cavs have a lot to prove right now, and have been failing to prove anything except that they are as awful as their worst critics allege. This was a horrifying beatdown and belied a team spinning apart from the inside.

From a happier perspective, even without Eric Gordon and Trevor Ariza, the Rockets are rolling. They didn't need a particularly good game from Harden (16 points on 16 shots, 6 rebounds, 9 assists) to turn the Cavs inside out and blow them up. Chris Paul was much more impressive, shooting 57% from the field for 22 points to go with 8 boards and 11 dimes. Cleveland's defense was completely helpless against Paul when he was on the floor, and the final score reflects that. The Cavs lost every quarter, and the Rockets scored at least 30 in every period except for the fourth, which was almost entirely garbage time.

The best news? PJ Tucker and Ryan Anderson were the only Rockets players to crack 33 minutes on the evening. Games like this are a formula for short term and long term success. The bad news is that James Harden tweaked his ankle midgame when he landed on Isaiah Thomas's foot. He quickly walked it off and continued playing, but it remains cause for concern. With Ariza and Gordon out, Houston can ill afford their best player to miss time. If Harden's seeming mutant healing factor continues, there should be no ill consequence, especially given that the Rockets have two days off before their next game, but it's worth watching.

There's little to say about the Rockets after a game like this. They are clearly better than every team in the league apart from the Golden State Warriors, and the reigning Eastern Conference Champions were utterly helpless against them. It doesn't get much more encouraging than that for the Rockets.

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