Houston Rockets (-6.5, 198 o/u) at Cleveland Cavaliers
When LeBron James decided to return to the Cavaliers, everyone knew things would get a lot more interesting in Cleveland. But, suffice it to say, fans are finding the new chapter to be more drama than they were hoping for, as the team suffers through injuries and chemistry issues. The former finds James out for two weeks, while the latter has led Cleveland to a mediocre record even when healthy.
The Cavaliers (19-16, 11-8 home) reached a low point on Monday, losing to the horrific Philadelphia 76ers. After the game, management pulled the trigger on a three-team deal it hopes will salvage the season. Cleveland sent Dion Waiters to the Thunder and, in return, received Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith from the Knicks.
“We’re very excited to welcome Iman and J.R. to Cleveland,” Cavs general manager David Griffin said. “With their size and versatility, we think both Iman and J.R. can help our team on both ends of the court and we look forward to them joining us.”
The team will need the newcomers to contribute immediately as James is not the only player suffering from injury problems. Point guard Kyrie Irving is having back troubles, which has forced forward Kevin Love to shoulder an ever-increasing offensive load; the former Timberwolf has done his part, averaging more than 28 points on nearly 52% shooting over the last three games.
But Love’s one-man show hasn’t been enough, as the Cavs have lost two straight and four of five without James.
“I just think it felt like we didn’t have our firepower,” Love said after the loss to the Sixers. “I’ve been there before, but we should have been able to pull this one out if we just would have played better. We’re down, but not out.”
Next up for the new-look Cavs is a home game against the Houston Rockets (23-11, 11-5 away). Though the Rockets are an impressive 12 games over. 500, the team has also struggled recently, losing four of its last six games.
“It happens sometimes, we just have to find better ways to execute in the fourth quarter,” center Dwight Howard said. “We just have to play better as a team.”
Given that Irving’s status is up in the air and the fact that the Cavs are 4-7 against the West this season, look for Houston to take advantage of the struggling Cleveland squad. However, a 6.5-point spread is too big for Cleveland at home. Take the Cavs and the points (+6.5).
(Photo credit: Keith Allison (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)