Regular Season Series (Game 1 of 2)

Series starts 12/29

Game 1: Wednesday, December 29th
Game 2: Thursday, March 24th

Rockets 98

(14-15, 5-8 away)

Cavaliers 87

(17-12, 11-3 home)

Coverage: FSOH

7:00 PM ET, December 29, 2004

Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH

1 2 3 4 T
HOU 27 23 23 2598
CLE 26 17 26 1887

Top Performers

Houston: T. McGrady 34 Pts, 7 Reb, 5 Ast, 1 Stl

Cleveland: D. Gooden 21 Pts, 12 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk

James takes elbow, bruises bone near eye

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 dangerous."

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' comeback.

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.

Game notes

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.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 98 87
FGM-FGA 39-84 (.464) 29-77 (.377)
3PM-3PA 6-12 (.500) 4-12 (.333)
FTM-FTA 14-21 (.667) 25-35 (.714)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 9-38 12-50
Assists 24 22
Turnovers 8 14
Steals 3 4
Blocks 4 5
Fast Break Points 7 4
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 24 (2/0) 17 (0/0)
Largest Lead 11 3

Top Performers

Tracy McGrady McGrady
Points: 34
Reb: 7
Ast: 5
Stl: 1
Blk: 0
Drew Gooden Gooden
Points: 21
Reb: 12
Ast: 1
Stl: 1
Blk: 1