McGrady scored 34 points, Juwan Howard made two late jumpers and
the getting-healthier-by-the day Houston Rockets got their second
straight quality road win, 90-81 over the Cleveland Cavaliers on
McGrady surpassed 30 points for the fourth game in a row as the
Rockets, who are without center Yao Ming and have been beaten,
bruised and battered with injuries all season, followed up a win at
Washington by handing the Cavaliers just their fourth loss in 17
McGrady did most of the damage, controlling the game's flow
during his 43 minutes on the floor.
"I've got to be more aggressive on offense and assertive on
defense because the big fella is out," said McGrady, who has
missed eight games with back problems. "I have to attack more and
it seems that when I do, we are playing well. I've got to continue
to do that."
McGrady outdueled LeBron James, who had 32 points, nine rebounds
and five assists but couldn't prevent Cleveland from falling to 1-1
since learning that guard Larry Hughes could miss two months with a
Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 17 points for the Cavs, who didn't help
themselves by going just 8-of-18 on free throws and making only 7
of a season-high 29 3-pointers.
Cleveland coach Mike Brown was not happy with his team's
selection of shots.
"We took too many 3s," Brown said. "We got some decent looks,
but the some shots just wouldn't go in."
The Cavaliers know they've got a tough road ahead without
"It's definitely going to be an adjustment without Larry,"
guard Eric Snow said. "He's our second leading scorer, our second
best player and our best perimeter defender. I don't think anyone
can fill in for Larry, but everybody has to do a little more."
Despite an off night, Cleveland, which trailed by 17 in the
third quarter got within three in the fourth, and was only down
84-78 when Howard dropped two straight jump shots to put the
Rockets back in charge.
Howard finished with 16 points and Rafer Alston 18 for Houston,
whose list of injured players includes Yao, Derek Anderson and Bob
Sura. Yao has begun light workouts following surgery on an infected
big toe and expects to return in two to three weeks.
McGrady, who had a season-high tying 38 against the Wizards, had
23 in the first half and looked like he could score at will before
the Cavaliers finally slowed him down in the second half.
But he hit several big shots, including a swooping layup with
2:19 left to put the Rockets ahead by six. It's the first time
McGrady has scored at least 30 in four straight games since joining
Houston in 2004.
"You can't stop him," James said. "You can only hope to
contain him and hold the others. But Juwan hit some big shots and
they helped him out."
The Cavaliers were just 2-of-19 on 3-pointers before James
buried two in a span of 26 seconds late in the third quarter to
pull Cleveland, which trailed by 17, within 71-60 after three.
James went 7-of-8 from the field and scored 16 of Cleveland's 25
points in the period.
Guarded primarily by James, McGrady scored his 23 on 18 shots in
the opening half that ended with Cavs fans grumbling about the
club's lack of defense. McGrady scored 10 points on jumpers in the
final 4:59 as the Rockets closed with a 15-2 run to take a 49-35
On one play, McGrady got James off his feet with a nasty ball
fake before dropping a 13-footer.
James scored 10 in the first quarter, but didn't attempt his
first shot of the second until only 1:49 remained.
James was unaware that Allen Iverson wants to play for the
U.S. basketball team in the 2006 world championships and 2008
Olympics. "He re-upped?" asked James, who was Iverson's teammate
in Athens. When the Cavs are in Phoenix next week, James plans to
speak with USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo about
possibly playing for the U.S. again. James didn't enjoy his
experience in Greece when he sat the bench for a bronze-medal
winner. ... Hughes, who is scheduled to have surgery Friday, has
had a history of medical setbacks during his NBA career. He missed
20 games last season with Washington and missed another 66 games
combined in three previous seasons with an assortment of injuries.
... Rockets G-F Jon Barry returned after missing 14 of last 15
games with a strained right calf. Barry didn't score in five
minutes. ... Houston has won five straight in Cleveland.