8:00 PM ET, January 5, 2006
Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH
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 Thursday night.
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 home games.
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 broken finger.
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 Hughes.
"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 lead.
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.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||33-74 (.446)||33-76 (.434)|
|3PM-3PA||6-18 (.333)||7-29 (.241)|
|FTM-FTA||18-25 (.720)||8-18 (.444)|
|Fast Break Points||0||9|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||14 (0/0)||18 (0/0)|