Jan 26, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward Evan Mobley (4) shoots against Houston Rockets forward Jabari Smith Jr. (1) in the third quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports
The Rockets will try to avoid their fifth straight loss when they play the third game of their five-game road trip against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Rockets are coming off a 37-point loss in Memphis on Friday night and start a stretch of three games in four days against top-six teams in the Eastern Conference.
Eye on the Cavs
Record: 47-28 (4th in Eastern Conference)
Offensive rating (rank): 115.5 (8th)
Defensive rating (rank): 109.8 (1st)
The Cavs enter Sunday’s game winners of three straight games and five-of-six. Much has been made of the Sacramento Kings 17-year playoff drought, but Cleveland is on the verge of clinching its playoff since 2018, though the Cavs have not made the playoffs without LeBron James since 1998 when Mike Fratello coached a team led by Shawn Kemp. The Cavs have the league’s best defense because they allow the third fewest points in the paint and and are fourth in opponents turnover rate.
Matchup to watch: Jalen Green vs Evan Mobley
The second and third overall picks of the 2021 draft won’t be matched up against one another very often, but they will always be linked. The Rockets chose Green ahead of Mobley almost 21 months ago, but as much as people try, it is impossible to compare the two players. Mobley is averaging 16 points on 55 percent shooting, 9 rebounds and 1.4 blocks while Green is scoring 22 points per game on 41 percent shooting. Mobley has been far more efficient, but he is often times sharing the floor with three All-Stars, Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland, and Jarrett Allen, while Green is surrounded by a talented, but inexperienced supporting cast. The Rockets ask much, much more of Green than the Cavs ask of Mobley.
What I’m watching for
Kevin Porter Jr will play against the team that drafted him 30th overall in 2019 and gave him away 18 months later for just the second time. Porter finished with 16 points and 7 assists when he played the Cavs last season, but missed January’s game at Toyota Center due to the left toe injury that kept him off the floor for 20 games. Porter played as a wing in 50 games as a rookie in Cleveland, but was traded to the Rockets for a highly protected second round pick after a couple of off-court incidents which included an outburst at Cavs general manager Koby Altman. Porter is averaging a career-high 18.6 points per game as a point guard with the Rockets this season, and while he’s never said anything negative about his former team, he has said he didn’t feel like he had the full support of the organization.