Regular Season Series (Game 2 of 2)

Series starts 12/29

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

Cavaliers 80

(35-31, 10-22 away)

Rockets 99

(41-27, 22-13 home)

Coverage: FSOH

7:30 PM ET, March 24, 2005

Toyota Center, Houston, TX

1 2 3 4 T
CLE 28 11 22 1980
HOU 28 20 21 3099

Top Performers

Cleveland: Z. Ilgauskas 16 Pts, 7 Reb, 3 Stl, 2 Blk

Houston: T. McGrady 31 Pts, 4 Reb, 5 Ast, 2 Stl

Houston wins 9 of 12; Cavs drop 10th in a row on road

HOUSTON (AP) -- Tracy McGrady attacked the basket and clearly relished his defensive assignment, displaying a ferocity not always seen from the sleepy-eyed All-Star.

Roused by the challenge of dueling with LeBron James, McGrady put on quite a show.

"Every time I face a guy like LeBron James, Kobe (Bryant) and those guys, you have to bring your A-game," said McGrady, who scored 31 points in Houston's 99-80 win over Cleveland on Thursday night. "You just have to up your level of intensity and focus and be ready to match their intensity as well."

Bob Sura had 12 points, 10 rebounds and six assists on his 32nd birthday, Mike James had 15 points off the bench and Yao Ming added 13 points and eight rebounds for the Rockets, who were particularly crisp following an impressive win over league-leading Miami on Tuesday.

Houston shot 48 percent, outrebounded Cleveland by 11 and never trailed after the early minutes of the second quarter.

"We got into a rhythm," Mike James said. "All of a sudden, it started getting into a flow."

The Cavaliers turned in another woeful performance on the road after winning in Brendan Malone's coaching debut against Detroit on Tuesday. Cleveland has lost 10 straight away from home, with its last win coming Jan. 22 at Golden State.

Drew Gooden led the Cavs with 20 points and six rebounds, while LeBron James had 19 points and eight assists.

"At home we play with a lot more intensity," said Cleveland center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who scored only five of his 16 points after halftime. "On the road we either turn the ball over too much or we shoot poorly."

McGrady, shooting just 30 percent in the previous five games, clearly outplayed James as the Rockets were easily the dominant team.

A prep-to-pro prodigy himself back in 1997, McGrady would probably never admit to feeling slighted by all the praise heaped upon James. But he sure played like it Thursday.

After sharing a warm embrace with James moments before tipoff, McGrady immediately seized control of the game. He drove into the lane almost every time he touched the ball instead of settling for fallaway jumpers, coming up with a handful of highlight-worthy baskets.

McGrady made a 360-degree spin under the basket for one layup in the first quarter, and threw down a thunderous left-handed dunk over Lucious Harris in the second.

"I just wanted to come in this game and stay aggressive -- go to the hole and not settle for the jumper," said McGrady, who shot 11-of-21. "I'm just trying to get out of that slump. To do that, you just go to the hole, get your confidence that way and everything will open up."

Meanwhile, James never really got comfortable -- typical of his games against Houston.

He shot just 7-of-22 from the field, bringing his four-game total against the Rockets to 19-of-64 (30 percent). James was held to a career-low three points in their last game Dec. 29 in Cleveland. He left that game early after suffering a bone bruise when an elbow from Dikembe Mutombo caught him over his left eye.

James may have been bothered by McGrady's pesky defense this time. On the few occasions when they were matched up, McGrady used his long arms to force James into ill-advised, off-balance shots.

"He's a good defender and he gets a hand up in my face," James said. "It's really a lot of fun playing against him."

Hard to imagine that, considering his subpar performance.

The Rockets really broke the game open early in the fourth quarter, going on a 12-0 run that included seven straight points from Mike James. Houston led 85-65 at that point, and its lead would never dip below 16 points the rest of the way.

With the Rockets just a point away from 100 in the waning seconds, the crowd urged them to go for another basket. Instead, James dribbled out the clock at midcourt, laughing as he exchanged hugs with his teammates.

Game notes

Malone, who was an assistant under Van Gundy with the New York Knicks from 1997-2000, met up with his former boss before and after the game. Another former Knicks and Rockets head coach, Don Chaney, was also at the game. ... As part of another throwback night, the Rockets wore their red and yellow uniforms from the 1970s. The Cavs wore their usual white home uniforms. ... Xzibit, rap star and host of MTV's "Pimp My Ride", San Diego Chargers receiver Keenan McCardell and Mathew Knowles, father of Beyonce, were all part of the sellout crowd. ... The Rockets will face only Western Conference teams from here on. They finished 18-12 against East teams this season.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 80 99
FGM-FGA 32-82 (.390) 33-69 (.478)
3PM-3PA 2-8 (.250) 9-23 (.391)
FTM-FTA 14-19 (.737) 24-29 (.828)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 9-37 7-48
Assists 26 22
Turnovers 10 18
Steals 13 6
Blocks 2 8
Fast Break Points 16 12
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 20 (1/0) 16 (2/0)
Largest Lead 5 21

Top Performers

Zydrunas Ilgauskas Ilgauskas
Points: 16
Reb: 7
Ast: 0
Stl: 3
Blk: 2
Tracy McGrady McGrady
Points: 31
Reb: 4
Ast: 5
Stl: 2
Blk: 0