I am shocked, shocked, by this loss. The Cavs went into Houston with a starting lineup of Larry Hughes, Ira Newble, LeBron James, Donyell Marshall and Z. That's right, Donyell Marshall and Ira Newble started. Not good.
The Cavs hung around for the first half (40-39) but then got blitzed in the third. The Rockets came out on a 13-5 run and never looked back. The lead would fluctuate from 6 to 14, but the Cavs could never cut it down to something manageable.
The Cavs missed all of their guys. They got spanked on the boards 55-35 and gave up 17(!) offensive rebounds. They really missed Varejao (they could've used his energy) and having Drew Gooden wouldn't have hurt either. They also missed Sasha... not because of anything great he does, but they needed a bigger body to guard both Tracy McGrady, Shane Battie (15 pts, 6-11) and Bonzi Wells (13 pts, 6-10) at times (mostly because the Rockets went to to whoever was guarded by Damon Jones).
I love Charles Barkley a lot, just not when he's talking about the Cavs. At halftime he called their Finals run a fluke (I totally agree, who could predict that a 2 seed could make the Finals), said he "feels bad for LeBron," said that the Cavs won't make the Finals again (that a Celtics-Pistons ECF is a given) and that they've reached their ceiling with this roster. I don't disagree with him on everything (the roster ceiling comment is the least wrong) but the guy has no clue what he's talking about when it comes to Cleveland basketball (remember, he picked the Cavs not to make the playoffs this year). The Cavs have done pretty well for themselves considering the hold outs, the early season schedule (I'm gonna point this out again, but this was their last Western Conference road game of the year) and all their injuries. This team does pretty well for itself when all the parts are there.
Did I mention that the Cavs got outrebounded 55-35? Seriously, Dwayne Jones was completely useless. The man has stone hands. He played 16 minutes and didn't record a single rebound. Hell, Gibson and Devin Brown each grabbed 2 boards. Donyell Marshall somehow snagged 5 in 24 minutes. The Cavs just looked slow and tired (in a completely unrelated note, they hoisted 27 treys- and made 8).
At least LeBron attacked. James played 41 minutes (awesome, the team is depleted, down double digits for much of the second half, has a game the next night and James logs over 40 minutes) and put up 32 points, 7 boards, 6 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks. James was the only one who attacked the basket consistently, notching 11 of the Cavs total of 13 free throw attempts.
When Damon Jones is you stat stuffing bench player, you're in trouble. Jones came off the bench to score 9 points, dish out 2 assists, get a couple steals and grab a board. His line of 9-1-2-2 was far and away the most productive of the bunch. As a unit, the bench had 16 points, 5 boards, 3 assists, 2 steals and a block. Not one guy, the whole freaking unit. Also, the Cavs didn't score a single point over the last 3:00 (but hey, they did miss four long 3s).
Atlanta on Friday. The Cavs are in game 2 of a 4-games-in-5-nights swing (and they're traveling a bit). The Cavs were in Houston Thursday night and are in Atlanta on Friday. They then play Denver in Cleveland Sunday and in Orlando on Monday. With all the injuries (Boobie tweaked his hamstring and LeBron hurt his thumb against the Rockets) Friday's game against the Hawks is looking to be a must win.