The start of the game looked like a bad matchup for the Cavs, who rank last in the league in 3-point defense (allowing 41.9 percent) and defensive efficiency.
That played right into the hands of the Rockets, who came in taking 53.4 percent of their shots from 3-point range, up from 46.2 percent last season. That projects to over 3,600 attempts from long range after they set a league record with 3,306 in 2016-17. No other team had ever gone over 2,800.
"We've got to do a good job just closing out, making those guys put the ball on the floor, get to the basket," Lue said. "We know they shoot 45 3s a game, and they take a lot of tough shots also, so, they're going to make some shots, but we can't hang our head. We've got to make sure we're doing everything the right way defensively. And they're going to make some tough shots -- Harden and 1/8Eric3/8 Gordon and Ryan Anderson. It's just part of the game."
The Rockets were without half of their dynamic guard duo, with Chris Paul sidelined with a left knee injury. But the Cavs were still faced with the challenge of trying to stop five-time All-Star James Harden, who came in averaging 29.5 points (third in the league), 4.4 rebounds, 9.7 assists and 1.55 steals per game. Harden scored a career-high 56 points against Utah on Sunday.
"When D'Antoni got here, he just really helped blossom 1/8Harden's3/8 game," Lue said of coach Mike D'Antoni, who took over the Rockets last season. "They say he didn't really pass the basketball, then he's top three in assists last year. Just having the ball in his hands, make the right play, make guys better around him, he's done a great job of that because we all know he can score."
Bucks' star Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 40 points Tuesday and the Wizards' Bradley Beal 36 Friday and the Cavs still won. Lue knew he might have to concede a big night to Harden.
"You've just got to take the other guys away. Harden is tough to stop," Lue said. "He's going to get to the free-throw line, he's going to make shots. He's averaging 10 3-point shots a game. He's one of the leading scorers in this league. If we do a good job trying to make it tough for him, keep him off the free-throw line and then do a better job of just taking away the other guys ..."
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