CLEVELAND — Break up the Cavaliers.
One night after winning on the road against Eastern Conference power Philadelphia, the Cavs came home and downed expected Western Conference contender Houston 117-108 Saturday at Quicken Loans Arena.
In recording its first two-game winning streak of the season, Cleveland (4-14) got a career-high 29 points on 14-for-21 shooting from 19-year-old rookie point guard Collin Sexton — who continually hit analytically bad shots in the 18- to 22-foot range — 20 points off the bench from Jordan Clarkson and 16 points and 19 rebounds from center Tristan Thompson.
“I truly believe this team is just scratching the surface,” Cavs coach Larry Drew said.
With both teams playing for the second straight night, the Rockets (9-9) gave All-Star point guard Chris Paul the night off. Houston also was without Brandon Knight (knee) and Nene (calf), but the Cavs played minus Kevin Love (foot), George Hill (shoulder) and Sam Dekker (ankle).
League scoring leader James Harden had 40 points for the Rockets while playing an NBA season-high 44 minutes in regulation and backcourt partner Eric Gordon added 28, but Cleveland, which dominated the boards 49-30, simply played better and harder.
“We’ve shown these last two games that we’re able to get over the hump,” Drew said.
The Rockets, who trailed by 10 at the start of the fourth quarter, made it a 106-102 game with 4:52 left, but Clarkson had 12 points in the final period, giving him 26 points in the last quarter of Cleveland’s back-to-back victories.
“He has a scorer’s mentality,” Drew said. “Scorers don’t feel like they can be stopped. That’s who they are. ... They feel they are instant offense. That’s who Jordan is for us.”
The Cavs also got 12 points off the bench from Kyle Korver and eight points and eight boards from Larry Nance Jr. With Clarkson leading the way, Cleveland reserves have outscored the opponent’s bench 35-0 in the fourth quarter of the last two games, including 14-0 vs. Houston.
“It’s winning time,” Clarkson said. “It’s time to get one. It’s something you work for all summer.”
Up five at halftime, the Cavs stretched their lead to 14 late in the third period — Sexton had 10 points in the quarter and Thompson had eight points and six rebounds — before settling for a 93-83 advantage entering the fourth.
“He’s been a monster,” Drew said of Thompson. “What he’s been doing these last few games, he’s been a warrior.”
Sexton had 15 points on 7-for-9 shooting and Korver hit three 3-pointers and three free throws after being fouled on another as the Cavs took a 63-58 lead at intermission.
With Houston repeatedly going under screens or simply laying off him, Sexton continually pulled up and drained long jumpers, most from just inside the 3-point arc. He was 12-for-17 from the field and had 25 points through three periods before Clarkson took over in the fourth.
“I’m just going out and playing my game and getting to shots I know I’m capable of making nine out of 10 times,” the rookie said. “That’s my shot. If they give it to me, I’m going to make it.”
The Rockets committed five turnovers in the first 2:42 of the game as the Cavs went up 8-2, but Harden finished the quarter with 15 points as Houston grabbed a 30-29 lead after one.
Cleveland’s David Nwaba, who had 12 points on 5-for-16 shooting, made Harden work, as the left-hander finished 14-for-30 from the field, 5-for-12 on 3-pointers and 7-for-12 at the line.
- Philadelphia guard Markelle Fultz, the No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft who has developed a huge hitch in his shot and had some issues with injuries and the 76ers organization, is being mentioned in trade talks. One possibility is Cleveland’s Korver, who would provide the perimeter shooting the Sixers need. Their salaries make a deal possible, but Philadelphia likely would want something else in the form of a future draft pick.
- Like J.R. Smith with the Cavs, Carmelo Anthony is not with the Rockets and not part of their future plans.
- Hill, who has missed the last eight games, has begun doing some on-court work. Sexton likely will stay in the starting lineup when Hill returns.
Cavaliers 117, Rockets 108
HOUSTON (108): Ennis III 2-6 0-0 5, Tucker 3-7 0-0 7, Capela 4-4 4-4 12, Harden 14-30 7-12 40, Gordon 8-16 7-9 28, Clark 2-4 0-0 5, Hartenstein 0-0 0-0 0, Carter-Williams 2-2 0-1 5, Green 2-5 1-2 6. Totals 37-74 19-28 108.
CLEVELAND (117): Osman 1-6 5-5 7, Nwaba 5-16 2-4 12, Thompson 6-12 4-8 16, Sexton 14-21 0-0 29, Hood 3-7 1-1 9, Nance Jr. 2-3 3-4 8, Harrison 2-4 0-0 4, Clarkson 8-16 4-4 20, Korver 3-5 3-3 12. Totals 44-90 22-29 117.
Houston 30 28 25 25 — 108
Cleveland 29 34 30 24 — 117
3-Point Goals—Houston 15-39 (Gordon 5-11, Harden 5-12, Carter-Williams 1-1, Clark 1-3, Green 1-4, Ennis III 1-4, Tucker 1-4), Cleveland 7-22 (Korver 3-3, Hood 2-4, Nance Jr. 1-1, Sexton 1-3, Harrison 0-1, Clarkson 0-2, Osman 0-3, Nwaba 0-5). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Houston 30 (Capela 10), Cleveland 49 (Thompson 20). Assists—Houston 18 (Harden 13), Cleveland 15 (Clarkson 4). Total Fouls—Houston 19, Cleveland 24. Technicals—Houston coach Rockets (Defensive three second), Cleveland coach James Posey. A—19,432 (20,562