HOUSTON -- Rockets center Omer Asik provided the oomph Houston needed to control the interior throughout the Rockets' 116-78 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night at Toyota Center.
Asik recorded his 29th double-double, pairing 13 points with 11 rebounds in just 23 minutes as the Rockets (38-31) dominated the Cavaliers (22-47) on the glass. Houston posted a plus-22 rebound margin behind Asik, who offset Cavaliers young big men Tyler Zeller and Tristan Thompson.
Zeller and Thompson, instrumental in the Cavaliers' run to a substantial lead against the Miami Heat on Wednesday night, combined for only 10 points and 13 rebounds against the Rockets. Houston scored 56 points in the paint, outpacing the Cavaliers in that department, too. Cleveland posted 24.
The Cavaliers hung tough early with exceptional shooting, led by guard Shaun Livingston. With All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving sidelined by a bum shoulder, Livingston scored 12 of his 14 points in the first half in a vain attempt to keep the Cavaliers in contention. Houston acquired Livingston last offseason only to release him during preseason camp.
Houston led by just three points entering the second quarter, but shot 10-for-19 that period while forcing the Cavaliers into four turnovers and limiting Cleveland to 7-for-18 shooting. While Asik anchored the interior, the Rockets' usual linchpin, James Harden, tallied 20 points on only nine shots.
Even before they turned things over to their reserves, the Rockets benefited from balanced scoring as forwards Chandler Parsons and Donatas Motiejunas scored 13 and 10 points, respectively.
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.
Garbage time enabled Rockets rookie forward Thomas Robinson, who provided a spark during his first stretch in the second quarter, to record a career-high 15 points. Thomas was a trade deadline acquisition from the Sacramento Kings.
NOTES: Houston coach Kevin 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 43 games without center Anderson Varejao, whose early-season rebounding had him in contention for a rebounding title. With Varejao lost to a knee injury, second-year forward Thompson and rookie center Zeller 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," Cavaliers coach Byron Scott said. "Tyler has done a good job, but for the most part we've done it by committee."