CLEVELAND (AP) -- A hood pulled over his aching head, LeBron James staggered back into Gund Arena looking like a beaten boxer.
So much for looking sharp for the birthday bash. On the night
before he turned 20, James was in no condition to celebrate.
Cleveland's star forward got flattened by an errant elbow from
Houston's Dikembe Mutombo in the first half and the Rockets went on
to a 98-87 win over the Cavaliers on Wednesday night.
"I never saw him," Mutombo said. "The next thing I know,
boom, he was laying on the floor. I hope it's not too bad."
Tracy McGrady scored 34 points and Yao Ming added 20 for the
Rockets, who didn't have to contend with James after halftime and
snapped a five-game losing streak on the road.
James bruised a bone near his left eye. He was moving across the
lane when he was accidentally leveled by Mutombo, whose elbows have
dropped more than a few NBA players over the years.
"I warned him before the game to watch out," said Cavaliers
guard Eric Snow, who played with Mutombo in Philadelphia. "I've
seen him take out teammates and opponents. Those things are
James was taken to the Cleveland Clinic for X-rays and a CT
scan. He was not available for comment after returning from the
hospital. The team said it will have test results and an update on
his condition Thursday.
"It's too bad," said Cavs guard Jeff McInnis. "I know he
wanted to do well tonight with it being his birthday."
After he was nailed by Mutombo, James immediately dropped to the
floor, covered his eyes and kicked his feet in obvious pain while
lying face down as play continued. When Houston scored, the
officials stopped the action and Cleveland's medical staff rushed
out to help James, who had to be assisted off the court as he held
a towel against his head.
The sellout crowd in Gund Arena fell silent as James walked off.
"That was too bad about LeBron," said Rockets guard Bob Sura,
a former Cavaliers player. "Man, he brings energy into this
building. It was never like that when I played here."
James was coming off a 40-point performance in a win at Atlanta
on Tuesday. He's averaging 25.2 points but had a career-low three --
all on free throws -- before getting hurt.
McGrady scored 22 points in the second half and 12 in the fourth
quarter, including the Rockets' last seven over the final 2:03.
Juwan Howard added 17 points for the Rockets, who were coming
off a season-worst 28-point loss at Milwaukee on Tuesday.
Trailing 80-69 early in the fourth, the Cavaliers began chipping
away. After a pair of 3-pointers, Drew Gooden's jumper brought
Cleveland within 86-83 with 5:41 left. Gooden scored again to make
it 91-87 with 2:20 left, when McGrady put an end to the Cavs'
McGrady hit a jumper, made two free throws and nailed a long
3-pointer with 32 seconds left to close the scoring. The Cavaliers,
sorely missing James, missed three shots and made two turnovers in
the final 2 minutes.
"He's our MVP, but any team that loses its MVP, how do they
look?" Cavs forward Ira Newble said.
Gooden led Cleveland with 21 points and 12 rebounds. Zydrunas Ilgauskas added 17 points and 11 boards and Jeff McInnis had 10 points and 10 assists for the Cavs, who dropped to 11-3 at Gund Arena.
James has time to rest up. Cleveland doesn't play again
until Monday at Charlotte. ... Before the game, Cavs coach Paul
Silas was asked what he bought James for his birthday. "Nothing
yet," Silas said. "We'll see. If he has another 40-point game
he's going to get something real good." ... Newly acquired Rockets
G David Wesley was back at Gund Arena for the second time in four
nights. Wesley was traded to Houston on Monday by New Orleans,
which lost to the Cavs on Sunday. Jim Jackson, who was part of the
deal, hasn't reported to the Hornets and has been suspended by the
club. ... Sura had a season-high 12 assists. ... James missed three
games last year with a sprained ankle.