Rockets-Cavaliers Preview

The Associated Press

With their leading scorer struggling and their starting point guard possibly missing a second straight game, the Houston Rockets may rely even more heavily on their bench.

The Rockets hope to build off one of their best offensive performances of the season Sunday night when they visit a Cleveland Cavaliers team coming off an impressive upset.

Houston ended a season-high five-game losing streak Saturday with a 112-106 win at New Jersey. The Nets inadvertently tipped in the go-ahead shot for the Rockets (22-19) with 63 seconds remaining.

Despite playing without Kyle Lowry, who was being monitored at a New York hospital for a high fever, the Rockets shot a season-best 56.1 percent. They posted their second-highest point total and had six players finish in double figures, led by Goran Dragic, who started in place of Lowry and scored a season-high 23 points.

"It was a tough game for us," Dragic said. "We knew we had lost five games in a row, so this game was especially important for us."

Houston averaged 96.2 points and shot 41.8 percent during its losing streak, but received a better effort from its reserves Saturday. Not including Dragic's big game, the Rockets reserves finished with 41 points - led by 17 from Courtney Lee - after averaging 27.0 during the losing streak.

With Lowry, who is averaging 15.9 points and 7.2 assists, uncertain for Sunday and Kevin Martin struggling, Houston's supporting cast is key.

Martin leads the Rockets with 17.4 points per game, but he's played just 37 total minutes in the last two games. He scored five points Saturday, attempting five shots.

Martin's woes seem to be isolated to the road. He is averaging 7.3 points and shooting 27.3 percent in his last 10 road games compared to scoring 22.2 points per game at home this season.

With two games remaining on his team's five-game road trip, Martin will try to turn things around personally in Cleveland.

The Cavaliers (15-23), though, are looking to win a season-high third straight after a pair of road victories over Denver and Oklahoma City.

Kyrie Irving had 12 assists with just one turnover Friday and Antawn Jamison finished with 21 points and eight rebounds in a 96-90 victory that ended the Thunder's 14-game home win streak. Cleveland had a 51-40 rebounding advantage and grabbed 21 offensive boards.

"Obviously that's a pretty good win, any time you can beat a team this good in their building," coach Byron Scott said. "It says a lot about the way our guys came and competed, the way we played."

The Cavaliers have used a three-guard lineup to close each of the last two wins. The 6-foot-9 Jamison was the only player taller than 6-6 on the court at the end Friday.

"It allows the lane to open up that much more," Irving said. "I'm able to attack. The basket just seems that much more open than when we have our bigs in."

While Cleveland has found an effective use for a smaller lineup, Jamison has come up big over the last week, averaging 26.3 points and 7.5 rebounds the last four games. He scored 33 against the Nuggets.

The Cavaliers hope the momentum from the surprising trip can help them end a four-game losing streak at home. They'll try to avoid a three-game skid versus Houston, which has won four of five and 12 of 16 in the series.

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