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NBA Preview from The Sports Network



Friday, March 22nd (All times Eastern)

Cleveland Cavaliers (22-46) at Houston Rockets (37-31), 8 p.m.

(Sports Network) - After coming up short in an attempt to dethrone the Miami Heat and their gaudy winning streak, the Cleveland Cavaliers look to stay focused in Friday's road bout against the Houston Rockets.

The Cavs welcomed back LeBron James to Quicken Loans Arena and stormed out to a 32-24 lead after the initial 12 minutes of play. They carried a 55-34 lead in to halftime, but Miami took over from there, outscoring Cleveland by a 64-40 margin in the last 24 minutes.

Miami overcame a 27-point deficit at one point and James broke the hearts of Cleveland fans once again. James, of course, departed the Forest City a few years ago to join forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh down south.

"These are unique days in my career as a professional basketball player," said James. "You know, they came out and jumped all over us, then we came back and went on one of the best runs I've ever been a part of in this sport."

Wayne Ellington paced the Cavs with 20 points, while Tristan Thompson had 18 and Tyler Zeller compiled 12 points and 11 rebounds. The Cavs have lost four in a row and eight of the last 10 games.

"It's painful blowing this one," said Thompson. "We were up by 26 and we just couldn't hang on. They were making shots in the second half and there wasn't much we could do about it."

Cleveland once again did not have All-Star guard Kyrie Irving, who missed his fifth straight game with a shoulder injury and is out indefinitely. Cavs rookie guard Dion Waiters did not play against the Heat either due to a balky knee. Waiters is expected to miss at least a week.

The Cavs, who have dropped three in a row on the road and are 9-25 as the guest, can't dwell on this loss too long because the Rockets are just as tough and are pushing for a postseason spot.

Houston is seventh in the Western Conference -- one game behind Golden State and 1 1/2 games in front of the Los Angeles Lakers -- and will resume a seven- game homestand Friday night.

The Rockets are 3-1 so far on the residency and handed the Utah Jazz a 100-93 setback Wednesday night at the Toyota Center, where James Harden scored 29 points and Jeremy Lin added 24. Harden was 17-for-18 at the foul line.

Chandler Parsons had 10 points and eight rebounds for Houston, which is 6-3 in its last nine games overall and improved to 23-10 in Space City. San Antonio and Indiana are still slated to visit Houston.

"I thought we got off to a good start," said Rockets coach Kevin McHale. "I thought we had good energy. I thought we had good defensive rhythm."

Houston and Oklahoma City are tied at the top of the NBA with 106.4 ppg, but the Rockets are near the bottom in defense, allowing 103.1 ppg. Cleveland hasn't had much success on defense either, giving up 101.3 ppg.

In a 112-104 Houston triumph at Cleveland on Jan. 5 this season, Harden had 16 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter and Irving tallied 16 of his 30 points in the final frame. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear Irving will be ready for this one and the Cavs have dropped 14 of the last 20 in this series.

Cleveland has lost five straight, eight of nine and 20 of its last 23 games at the Rockets.

03/22 10:26:09 ET