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Asik helps lead Rockets over crippled Cavs

The SportsXchange

HOUSTON -- Houston Rockets coach Kevin McHale emphasized how integral rebounding would be on Friday night with his team facing a banged-up Cleveland Cavaliers squad.

As has become customary in his first season in Houston, Rockets center Omer Asik provided the oomph necessary to control the interior throughout the Rockets' 116-78 win at the Toyota Center.

Asik recorded his 29th double-double, pairing 13 points with 11 rebounds in just 22 minutes as the Rockets (38-31) dominated the Cavaliers (22-47) on the glass. Houston posted a plus-22 rebound margin behind Asik, second in the NBA in defensive rebound rate.

"He's been there for us all year long and he's been an incredible rebounder, kind of almost similar to playing with a Marcus Camby last year," Rockets forward Chandler Parsons said. "He eats up every single rebound, and it really helps us be able to get out on the break and do what we do.

"Without him I don't know where we'd be. He's been great for us all year."

Asik almost singlehandedly offset Cavaliers young big men Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller, whose combined handiwork on the glass was instrumental in the Cavaliers' run to a substantial lead against the Miami Heat Wednesday night.

Houston scored 56 points in the paint while Cleveland had just 24.

"The biggest thing that we struggle with is how well they space the floor," Zeller said. "They had three or four shooters around (Asik) and really it's one-on-one down there with him, so that makes it difficult."

The Cavaliers hung tough early thanks to some tough shooting by guard Shaun Livingston. With All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving sidelined by a bum left shoulder, Livingston scored 12 of his 14 points in the first half in an attempt to keep the Cavaliers in contention.

Houston led 28-25 entering the second quarter, but shot 10-for-18 that period, forced the Cavaliers into four turnovers, and limited Cleveland to 7-for-18 shooting.

While Asik anchored the interior, the Rockets' James Harden tallied 20 points on only nine shots.

The Rockets rode their balanced scoring as Parsons and Donatas Motiejunas scored 13 and 10 points, respectively. Seven Rockets reached double figures.

Following that tight opening period, the Rockets outscored Cleveland by double digits in each remaining quarter, extending their 58-43 halftime lead to 87-61 by the close of the third. The Cavaliers managed only 10 second-chance points and hit just 14 of 49 shots after the first period.

"We just made some shots in the first quarter," Cavaliers coach Byron Scott said. "From that point on, I just thought we were disconnected and our guys were trying to get theirs on the offensive end. But defensively we were disconnected, not communicating, and it was just one of those nights that we were just individuals, not a team."

Garbage time enabled Rockets rookie forward Thomas Robinson, a trade deadline acquisition from the Sacramento Kings, to record a career-high 15 points. Reserve forward/center Greg Smith corralled a career-best 13 boards, including a game-high 10 on the defensive end.

"We said that we've got to rebound," McHale said. "One thing I was really concerned about was their ability to get on the boards. We did a pretty good job, especially early, getting them off (the boards)."

NOTES: McHale dismissed the notion that opponents have done a superior job of late slowing the Rockets' league-leading offensive pace, choosing instead to shift the blame to his team. The Rockets have managed at least 100 possessions in a game only twice in the last 13 games and, subsequently, have mustered only four games where they've scored at least 110 points. Houston had seven such scoring outputs in the previous 13 contests. "We're putting ourselves in a half-court mindset," McHale said. "They're not slowing us down, we're slowing us down. We're not getting out running; we're not getting our wings out ahead of the ball anymore. The guy with the ball is not pushing hard enough." ... The Cavaliers have played 44 games without center Anderson Varejao, whose early-season rebounding had him in contention for a rebounding title. With Varejao lost to a knee injury, Thompson, a second-year forward, and Zeller, a rookie center, have combined to fill the void by averaging 15.2 rebounds per game. "They've done a good job, and a lot of it is Tristan," Scott said. "Tyler has done a good job, but for the most part we've done it by committee."
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