A high-scoring duo meet in the NBA today when the 5-6 Cleveland Cavaliers travel to face the 8-3 Houston Rockets (8pm ET Thursday on TNT).
Cleveland has been a disappointment this season. The Cavaliers have the worst defense in NBA history in terms of points allowed per 100 possessions. The effort shown on that end by most of the Cavs’ regulars has been terrible. An effective offense has kept the team afloat, though.
Houston, meanwhile, is finding its identity, winning its last three games by at least 15 points. The Rockets’ three-point shooting is heating up, while their defense remains solid.
How will the Cavaliers fare against the explosive Rockets? We’ll examine three important storylines heading into the game. Following those breakdowns, we’ll make a pick on the contest’s spread and a prediction for the over/under on the points total.
Can the Cavaliers Put Any Sort of Effort into Defending the Three-Point Line?
It’s safe to say there’s potential for some offensive fireworks from the Rockets on Thursday.
The Cavaliers allow the most three-point makes per game (13.4) and the highest three-point percentage (41.9) from their opponents in the league. The Rockets lead the league in their own made threes per game (15.1). While their percentage (33.9) is lackluster at the moment, they are above 42 percent in their last three contests.
Cleveland has the worst perimeter defense in the NBA, but the team needs to take this matchup seriously. Forcing James Harden, Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson and Trevor Ariza to beat them from inside the arc will be a major key tonight.
What Will Luc Mbah a Moute’s Status for Thursday’s Game Be?
As of last night, Mbah a Moute was questionable for today’s contest due to knee soreness. He’s a valuable bench piece for the Rockets who plays 27.7 minutes per game and provides versatile defense and efficient offense.
If Mbah a Moute can’t go or is limited, the Cavaliers’ chances at winning this game go way up. He’s a combo forward who can help limit LeBron James’ offensive impact while not hindering the team on offense.
With the injury to Chris Paul, the Rockets are already struggling a bit in terms of depth. A missing or potentially limited Mbah a Moute means Houston has to either extend its other rotation players more or dig deeper into its bench. There isn’t a player on the Rockets’ bench outside of P.J. Tucker who provides the sort of two-spark that Mbah a Moute does, so him being 100 percent is crucial.
Will Jae Crowder Ever Break Out?
When the Cavaliers traded for Crowder in September, he was supposed to be a huge piece in the deal. The 27-year-old forward has improved significantly throughout his career and averaged an efficient 13.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game with the Boston Celtics last year, playing above-average defense.
Cleveland has yet to reap the benefits of Crowder’s skills. He’s getting fewer shots in the Cavs’ offense, and he is not cashing in on the ones he gets. His field-goal and three-point percentages are at 38.4 and 29.7 respectively.
Crowder might be the third-best healthy offensive player on the Cavaliers, behind LeBron James and Kevin Love. However, he is eighth on the team in shots per game. There has to be some change with both Crowder’s and the Cavaliers’ approach to integrating him.
Our Preview’s Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Houston Rockets Predictions & Betting Picks
The Cavs are just in a funk right now. Their last eight opponents have all scored at least 112 points and they have gotten very easy looks. Sooner or later, Cleveland will progress from being a historically bad defense to just a below-average one, but it’s doubtful they break out of their issues against one of the best offensive teams in the NBA. So these are our preview’s Cavs vs. Rockets predictions and picks:
- Houston is a 5pt or, more generally, a 5.5 point favorite in this game according to most top sports betting outlets. This seems to overvalue the Cavs in their current state. Bet Rockets -5pts @ -115 with Bookmaker.
- This total is predictably high at 228. However, I would argue that it could be even higher. Cleveland’s last eight games have averaged above 230, and now the team is facing an offense much better than any it saw in that stretch. Bet the over 228pts @ -110 with 5Dimes, Bookmaker or BetOnline.
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.