Cavs’ Bickerstaff on loss to Rockets: ‘We just didn’t play well’

The Cavaliers came into Houston Wednesday night to battle the Rockets, a team that has not won at home since December 8. However, for the second consecutive game, Cleveland did not have their leading scorer Darius Garland(back), and it showed.

The Rockets had six players in double figures, led by Jalen Green and Christian Wood’s 21 points apiece as they upended the Cavs 115-104 at Toyota Center.

Houston(15-36) snapped an 11-game home losing streak with the win and their four-game losing streak overall. Cleveland(31-21) falls to fifth in the Eastern Conference and is two games behind the Bulls for the top spot in the conference.

Here is the Great, Not So Great, and the Bottom Line of the Cavs’ loss to the Rockets:

The Great for the Cavaliers:

-After scoring four points in the win over the Pelicans, Evan Mobley bounced back. He had a double-double with a career and game-high 29 points to go along with 12 rebounds. Mobley had a double-double in the first half. This is how you come back after a bad performance. The great LeBron James is the last rookie in Cavs’ history to have more points and rebounds in a game.

-Kevin Love also gave the Cavs a double-double. Love had 21 points and 13 rebounds off the bench. He, too, had a double-double in the first half. According to Elias Sports, the last time the Cavs had two players with double-doubles in a single half was when Love and LeBron did it back in 2014. In addition, Love became the seventh player in team history to record 4,000 rebounds.

Points in the Paint: Cleveland had to go inside without Garland, and they scored 60 of their 104 points in the paint. They were led by Mobley, who was dominant in the lane.

The Not So Great for the Cavaliers:

Turnovers: The Cavs had 19 turnovers, leading to 27 points for Houston. Cleveland is currently 28th in turnovers per game(15.0). It’s hard to win, even against bad teams, when you turn the ball over 19 times.

-Free Throw Line: Cleveland struggled at the line against the Rockets, and they shot 15/27(56%) from the charity stripe. The Cavs lost by 11 points. If they make their free throws, maybe it’s a different game.

Three-point Shooting: The Cavs had a hard time from downtown. Cleveland shot 7/21(33%) from deep. Love had the most struggles from three-point range as he shot 1/7.

Defense: The Cavs allowed a team to score 115 points for the second time in three games. The Rockets are fifth in the NBA in points in the paint, and they reached their average as they scored 48 points in the paint Wednesday night. 

Second Quarter: Cleveland trailed 32-31 after one quarter, but things fell apart in the second. Houston had their largest lead of the game of 15 points in the quarter, and the Cavs were fighting uphill the rest of the way. The Rockets led 64-53 at halftime.

Officiating: This game did not have much of flow, and that was because of the foul calls. There was 50 fouls called in this game. The two teams combined for 60 free throws.

Bottom Line:

Again, this was a winnable game for the Cavs. However, the offense did not have much of a flow against Houston, and the Cavs just could not find their rhythm without Garland. 

The last three games against the Pistons, Pelicans, and Rockets were very winnable for the Cavs. However, the Cavs were 1-2 in those games, and even though they did not have Garland in two of those games, they still had to find a way to win.

“We just didn’t play well,” Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said post-game. “Credit to the Rockets, don’t take anything away from what they did, but we didn’t get the job done at the level that we’re capable of tonight.”

What’s Next:

Cleveland travels to Charlotte to battle the Hornets Friday night.

Best of the Rest:

-Cedi Osman had 13 points; Jarrett Allen and Isaac Okoro added 11 points apiece for Cleveland.

-For Houston, former Cav Kevin Porter Jr. and Garrison Mathews had 16 points apiece.

Watch below as Mobley and Love react to the loss:

Cavs’ Garland: ‘Our mindset all season is to play all 48 minutes’

The Cleveland Cavaliers have led from start to finish in three out of the last four games, including Wednesday’s 124-89 blowout win over the visiting Houston Rockets.

Cleveland led by as many as 32 points in the first half, and Houston never threatened from there. The Cavs had their largest lead of 45 in the third, and a significant part of the second half was extended garbage time. 

All 13 Cavalier players scored against Houston. 

The Cavaliers(18-12) swept their three-game homestand and have won five straight and nine of 11. Cleveland has won five straight for the time since LeBron James was in the Land(2018).

Houston’s(9-19) two-game winning streak ended Wednesday night.

The Great for the Cavaliers:

Where do you begin when you win by 35?

First Half: In the first quarter, the Cavaliers outscored the Rockets 35-16, and they went on an 18-0 run from the end of the first into the second quarter to take a 47-16. In the first half, Cleveland shot 54.8% from the field, including 9/17 from three-point range. Additionally, the Cavs held Houston to 30% shooting. They also forced 10 Houston turnovers and led 69-38 at the break

In the last five games at halftime, Cleveland has held the following leads:

+31 (69-38) Houston

+11 (55-44) Miami

29 (81-52) Sacramento

+21 (65-44) @Timberwolves

+9 (52-43) Bulls

First Half Rubio: Ricky Rubio gave Cleveland a great lift off the bench in the first half. Rubio scored seven points and dished out eight of his game-high 12 assists in the half. Additionally, Rubio ended the half with a team-best +29 rating. He also finished the game with four steals.

First Half Garland:  Darius Garland scored 17 points in the opening half, including three threes. The third-year guard was 6/8 from the field and 3/4 from downtown. Garland had a +25 rating in the first half and finished with a game-high 21 points. 

Isaac Okoro, Isaac Okoro, Isaac Okoro. He’s playing with so much confidence right now. He scored 11 of his 20 points in the first half as he shot 7/9 from the floor, including 3/3 from three-point range. This is his fourth straight game in double figures and his second 20-point game during this stretch. In those four games, Okoro is shooting 70% from the floor.

Okoro also had this sick dunk:

The backcourt of Garland and Okoro combined for 41 points on 14/20 shooting from the field, including 6/9 from downtown. They were sizzling Wednesday night. 

The Not So Great for the Cavaliers:

Absolutely nothing to see here. You lead by as many as 45 points, and you win by 35; you did everything right.

Bottom Line:

Five straight and nine out of 11 is impressive. The Rockets were a depleted team(Christian Wood, Eric Gordon out), and Cleveland took full advantage. The Cavs continue to blow teams out as they defeated all three teams on this homestand by a combined 60 points. Cleveland, who is the fourth-seeded team in the East, is now three games behind the number one seed in the East, the Brooklyn Nets.

“Our mindset all season is to play all 48 minutes. We did that tonight,” Garland said.

What’s Next:

The Cavaliers go on the road for three games, starting Saturday night against the world champion Milwaukee Bucks. 

Best of the Rest:

Dean Wade, who started for the injured Evan Mobley(hip), had his first double-double of the season with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Kevin Love added 15 points(3/5 3pt FG), and Lauri Markkanen chipped in with 12 

Alperen Sengun led Houston with a career-best 19 points and 11 rebounds off the bench. 

Rockets head coach Stephen Silas left the game in the first half with dehydration and did not return. Assistant John Lucas coached the rest of the way for Houston.

Watch below as Garland and Okoro react to the win over Houston:

 

 

 

 

Ex-Nets Allen, Prince say they would’ve done the Harden deal

Last week, the Cleveland Cavaliers acquired Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince in a three-team deal with the Rockets and Nets that sent James Harden to Brooklyn. In the deal for Harden, Houston received forward Caris LeVert(sent to Indy for Victor Oladipo), forward Rodions Kurucs, three first round draft picks, and the rights to swap four first round draft picks from Brooklyn.

Obviously, for the Nets, it’s all about winning a championship right now. Brooklyn has a former MVP and a two-time NBA champion in Kevin Durant, another champion in Kyrie Irving, and now they have another former MVP in Harden. With the addition of Harden, the Nets are clearly one the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference and possibly win an NBA title. 

Anytime you can get your hands on a player like Harden, you find ways to make it happen, and the Nets did just that. 

According to both Allen and Prince, if they were the Nets’ general manager, they would have made the move, too.

“In all honesty, I would say I would do it. I’m not going to lie,” Allen said. “If you look at what happened with the Lakers, they did the same thing, and then the next year they went and got their ring. If I take myself out of it, I would love to stay in Brooklyn, but I understand that an opportunity like that, you have to go get it. 

Prince added: “To be completely honest, yeah. You got James Harden, who is probably one of the best scorers we’ve seen in our generation. Same with Kev(Durant), Kyrie(Irving), great point guard he is. I probably would have done the same thing.”

It’s hard to argue with the deal from the standpoint of all parties. The Nets got a big piece for a title run, Houston gets an opportunity to retool with draft picks and players, and Cleveland gets a young center in Allen. So it’s clear, Allen and Prince might have an NBA front office job waiting for them when they retire. Maybe not, but it was a deal the Nets could not pass up.

Watch below as Allen and Prince talk Harden trade:

Cavs’ GM is excited about the acquisition of Jarrett Allen

The Cleveland Cavaliers have acquired center Jarrett Allen and forward Taurean Prince from the Brooklyn Nets as part of a three-team trade that also includes the Houston Rockets, the team announced on Thursday.

In exchange, Cleveland is sending guard Danté Exum and a 2022 unprotected first round draft pick via Milwaukee to Houston, and the lesser of Utah and Cleveland’s 2024 second round draft picks to Brooklyn. The Cavaliers have also acquired from Brooklyn the draft rights to Aleksandar Vezenkov, who was selected by the Nets with the 57th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. 

As part of the three-team trade, the Nets are receiving guard James Harden from the Rockets. In exchange, Houston is receiving forward Caris LeVert, forward Rodions Kurucs, three first round draft picks, and the rights to swap four first round draft picks from Brooklyn. While it’s not official, it is expected that LeVert will be shipped to Indiana for Victor Oladipo.

For Cleveland, they add a young center in the 6-11 Allen. In 12 games (five starts) for the Nets this season, Allen is averaging career highs of 11.2 points on .677 shooting from the field, 10.4 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks in 26.7 minutes. The 22-year-old Allen is an excellent finisher around the basket and is a very good shot-blocker.

Cavaliers GM Koby Altman is excited about the acquisition of Allen and what he brings to the table. 

“Obviously, you build through the draft,” Altman said on Thursday. “When we started this process a couple of years ago, we knew we were going to build through the draft. Very excited about the additions we made there the last two, three years… To add a center that’s 22 years old, but that’s going into his fourth year in the league. That’s proven, that has more upside, that has all the intangibles you look for to add to your culture. To have that opportunity yesterday, we just felt was too good to pass up. 

Adding Allen, who will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season, to what the Cavs have in guys like Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, and Isaac Okoro is exciting. There is a lot of youth with a lot of upside right now in Cleveland.

Regarding the 26-year-old Prince, he will get a decent opportunity, especially with all the injuries in Cleveland. In 12 games (four starts) this season with the Nets, Prince is averaging 8.1 points and 2.8 rebounds in 18.2 minutes.

With this trade, the Cavaliers have three centers in JaVale McGee, Andre Drummond, and Allen. Drummond can become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, so what Cleveland does there should be interesting. The 27-year-old Drummond, who has played well and is making $28.7 million this season, could be enticing for some teams because of his expiring contract, so with Allen in the mix and based on what the Cavs gave up to get Allen, it would appear that Drummond could be the odd man out in Cleveland. We’ll see how that situation plays out.

Also, on Thursday, the Cavaliers waived center Thon Maker and released guard Yogi Ferrell. Maker played in eight games with Cleveland this season, averaging 3.8 points and 2.3 rebounds in 9.5 minutes. He joined the Cavaliers in the 2020 Preseason. Ferrell (6-0, 178) was signed to a 10-day contract by Cleveland on Jan. 11 and appeared in two games for the Cavaliers this season, averaging 9.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.5 steals in 20.0 minutes.

 

Spurs’ Popovich on Rockets: ‘We had four or five guys who were out to lunch’

The Houston Rockets were a depleted team on Thursday night. Due to the James Harden trade and injuries to John Wall and Eric Gordon, Houston had nine players against the Spurs, but those nine players came up huge, especially Christian Wood, who had a team-high 27 points and 15 rebounds, as the Rockets defeated San Antonio on the road 109-105.

This was a very disappointing loss for the Spurs, who were led by Keldon Johnson’s career-high 29 points, and after the game, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich felt some of his players were not ready to play against the Rockets.

“This has nothing to do with defense, offense,” Popovich said. “This has to do with between the ears. Being ready to play. We had four or five guys who were out to lunch.”

When asked if he was surprised by his team’s effort against Houston, Popovich has this to say:

“It doesn’t matter if it surprises me or not. We did what we did.” 

According to Spurs G Lonnie Walker IV, who scored 16 points on Thursday night, the Rockets played harder than San Antonio.

“They just played harder,” Walker said. “They played from the first quarter to the fourth, they played harder. It’s just that simple.”

Walker also felt the undermanned Rockets played like they had something to prove.

“They had something to prove,” he said. “They felt disrespected, so that energy and animosity built up inside of them. They were definitely ready to play this game. You could tell on the court just by their effort defensively, second-chance points, grabbing rebounds, and all those types of things.”

In an 82-game season(72 this year), losses like this happen, especially with a young team like San Antonio. Fortunately for the Spurs, they have a chance to get revenge on Saturday night against Houston. Based on Pop’s reaction after this loss, expect a much better effort from this team on Saturday night.

Notes:

DeMar DeRozan made his return on Thursday night after missing two games due to traveling to California to be with his ill father. In his return, DeRozan struggled early, but scored 10 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter.

Watch an angry Pop below:

Wizards’ Westbrook: ‘Brad(Beal) is a superstar talent’

Nine-time All-Star and former league MVP Russell Westbrook is officially a member of the Washington Wizards. This week, the Wizards acquired the 32-year-old Westbrook from the Rockets in exchange for John Wall and a first-round draft pick. 

In Washington, Westbrook will join two-time All-Star Bradley Beal. Last season, the 27-year-old Beal averaged career-highs in points(30.5) and assists(6.1), and was an All-Star snub in 2019-20. 

On Saturday, Westbrook met the D.C. media, and he discussed doing his part to make things easier for Beal. 

“Brad(Beal) is a superstar talent,” Westbrook said. “He proved that and showed that last year with what he had, and he’s only going to get better. My job is to come in and continue to uplift him, try to push him to be better. That’s all I’m here for, man. I’m happy to be his counterpart and try to make the game easier for him.”

On paper, Westbrook and Beal are one of the best backcourts in basketball. The key is these two being able to complement each other on the floor. Beal had the ball in his hands a lot last season, and Westbrook is another player that flourishes with the ball in his hands, so it will be something that both players have to figure out.

Making the playoffs won’t be easy in the Eastern Conference for Washington. Out of the eight teams(Bucks, Raptors, Celtics, Pacers, Heat, 76ers, Nets, and Magic) that made the playoffs last season, there’s probably one team you could see possibly not making the playoffs, which is Orlando. Other than that, those other seven teams either have gotten better or pretty much stayed the same. However, every year in the NBA, some teams become surprisingly good and others become surprisingly bad. 

Therefore, Westbrook and Beal must have big seasons and stay healthy. Also, Davis Bertans, an elite shooter, must live up to his big contract(five years, $80 million). In addition, the younger guys like Rui Hachimura, Thomas Bryant, and Troy Brown Jr. must take that next step as players. No matter what happens, having Westbrook in D.C. will bring new energy to the team and fanbase, which should be fun to see this season.

 

Spurs waive DeMarre Carroll; Rockets expected to sign him

The San Antonio Spurs today announced that the team has waived forward DeMarre Carroll, and according to ESPN and Carroll’s agent Mark Bartelstein, Carroll agreed to a contract buyout.

The Spurs were paying Carroll, who signed a three-year, $20.6 million deal with the team this summer, $7 million this season, and he’s set to receive a guaranteed $6.65 million in 2020-21. Only $1.35 million of the $7 million the pact calls for him to collect in 2021-22 is guaranteed, according to the San Antonio Express-News          

Houston is a frontrunner to sign Carroll once he clears waivers, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Carroll, 33, saw action in just 15 games for San Antonio averaging 2.2 points and 2.1 rebounds in 9.0 minutes.

According to reports, the Spurs were actively trying to trade Carroll before the trade deadline, but they were not able to find any suitors. 

 

Hawks’ GM on Capela: ‘We are excited to add Clint to our young core’

 The Atlanta Hawks have acquired centers Clint Capela and Nene from the Houston Rockets in a four-team trade involving 12 players, it was announced on Wednesday. As part of the exchange, the Hawks traded guard/forward Evan Turner and a conditional future first round pick (acquired from Brooklyn on July 6, 2019) to the Minnesota Timberwolves and sent a 2024 second round pick (acquired from Golden State on June 20, 2019) to the Houston Rockets.

The Timberwolves also acquire Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez and Jarred Vanderbilt from the Denver Nuggets while Houston will receive Jordan Bell and Robert Covington from the Timberwolves. The Nuggets receive Keita Bates-Diop, Noah Vonleh and Shabazz Napier from Minnesota and Gerald Green and a 2020 first-round pick from Houston.

Capela, originally selected 25th overall by the Rockets in the 2014 NBA Draft, has averaged 12.2 points on .634 shooting, 9.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 26.0 minutes per game over his 334 career games (274 starts). In 39 games (all starts) this season, the 6-foot-10, 240-pound center is averaging 13.9 points on .629 shooting (4th in the NBA), 13.8 rebounds (4th in the NBA) and 1.9 blocks (7th in the NBA) in 32.8 minutes per game. A native of Switzerland, Capela currently ranks 10th in the NBA with 27 double-doubles, including four double-doubles of at least 20 points and 20 rebounds.

“We are excited to add Clint to our young core. He fills a need for us inside with his ability to protect the rim and rebound at an elite level and offensively, he gives our group another strong finisher and roll man,” said President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Travis Schlenk.

The five-year veteran has played in 61 playoff games (39 starts) with averages of 8.3 points on .606 shooting, 7.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 21.4 minutes per game. During the 2018-19 season, Capela, 25, ranked second in the NBA in field goal percentage (.648) and became just the third different player in NBA history to have shot at least .640 from the field while averaging at least 16.0 points per game in a single season joining Wilt Chamberlain and Artis Gilmore. He will wear jersey No. 17.

Capela’s size is something the Hawks could use, and while this season is pretty much over for Atlanta, the Hawks continue to build their core for the future and beyond.

Report: Westbrook shipped to Rockets for Chris Paul, picks

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Oklahoma City Thunder have traded Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul;  first-round picks in 2024 and 2026, pick swaps in 2021 and 2025.

With the move, Westbrook reunites with his former teammate James Harden. Should be interesting to see how the combination of Harden and Westbrook will be in Houston, but for now, with the trade of Paul George and Westbrook, OKC is rebuilding having acquired eight first-round picks since draft night, and Houston is trying to get an NBA title.

ESPN’s Amin Elhassan on Chris Paul: ‘He wears people out'(VIDEO)

Coming into the 2018-19 NBA season, the Houston Rockets were one of the favorites to win an NBA title. In 2017-18, the Rockets won 65 games and had the best record in the NBA. Houston had the Warriors down 3-2 in the Western Conference Finals, but unfortunately, Chris Paul injured his hamstring in Game 5, and ultimately, the Warriors would defeat the Rockets in 7.

Last season, it was the complete opposite. The Warriors’ Kevin Durant went out in Game 5 with an injured calf, but the Rockets still could not get past the Warriors as they lost in 6 in Western Conference semifinals.

Recently, reports surfaced that Paul and James Harden were having issues with each other and that Paul wanted out of Houston, but according to Paul, he wants to stay with the Rockets. Yesterday, according to the Houston Chronicle, Rockets GM Daryl Morey had this to say at the 3rd Annual NBA Awards:

“I think we’re going to have our starting five, plus a top-level mid-level. Maybe we’ll do better than that,” Morey said. “We’re going to be the favorites in the West, for sure. We were the best team down the stretch with that group, and that’s without adding one more quality player like we’re going to do. Most teams are scrambling to keep their starting unit together. We got ours next year.”

Also, according to the Houston Chronicle, Morey stated that the reports of Paul and Harden not getting along are false.

“That’s definitely not true,” Morey said. “It’s been the strangest part of my career with the media. There have been times we deserve terrible coverage. It’s not now. The discussion should be we are favorites next year and let people beat that up. That’s been really strange for me. It just started and kept going.

Last week, at the 12th Annual Steve Nash Foundation Showdown, ESPN’s Amin Elhassan gave his thoughts on Paul and the Rockets.

“It’s weird because Chris Paul is known to wear people out, and I’m surprised whenever people are surprised by that notion,” Elhassan told Paul Gant. “He wears people out, and so the problem for Houston is if indeed come to the point where they have to trade him: his contract, age, and injury history make it difficult to trade him for value, to get good players in return or to get good contracts in return, or to do without giving up good stuff like picks. If that happens, you gotta say to yourself, okay, does Houston have the appetite to trade him, and understand that we’re not gonna get better in the short run. It remains to be seen.”

The Rockets can do some big things in the Western Conference, especially with the Warriors possibly in transition. Because of the situation with Golden State, all the contending teams should go in big next season, and according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Rockets are looking to go after Jimmy Butler in a possible sign-and-trade with the 76ers, so if that happens, the Rockets will definitely be a formidable team next season, and will most definitely be one of the favorites next season.

Listen to the complete interview with Elhassan below: