CLEVELAND, Feb. 5 (Ticker) --
Not surprisingly, the Cleveland
Cavaliers made their 10th victory of the season a lot harder
than it had to be.
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scored 21 points and Zydrunas Ilgauskas
added 20 as
the Cavaliers let a 14-point fourth-quarter lead dwindle to one
before edging the lackluster Houston Rockets, 105-102, to become
the final team to reach double digits in victories.
The Rockets used a 17-8 run to get back in the game in the final
five minutes, closing within 103-102 on a free throw by James
with 37.8 seconds left.
Houston had a chance to take the lead, but Steve Francis'
was intercepted with 9.8 seconds left by Milt Palacio
promptly was fouled and made both free throws. With two seconds
left, Houston's Cuttino Mobley
missed an off-balance 3-pointer
and Cleveland's four-game losing streak was over.
"We got a little out of sync, but nevertheless, we made some big
defensive efforts," Cavaliers coach Keith Smart said. "Milt
made a great steal. All-around, guys made plays defensively
that we had to make."
Afterward, Houston coach Rudy Tomjanovich was puzzled and
"What a negative feeling it is to have that. ... (To be)
prepared and we still wound up not getting it done. That's a
characteristic that if I had a scalpel, I would dig that thing
out," Tomjanovich said.
scored a season-high 30 points and Mobley
contributed 24 as the Rockets dropped to 7-15 away from home
with their second straight road loss.
Davis also had 10 assists and six rebounds and Palacio chipped
in a season-best 16 points for the Cavs, who shot 45.5 percent
(40-of-88) from the field and hit 21-of-24 free throws.
For 3 1/2 quarters, it was tough to tell which team was the
worst in the NBA. Ilgauskas, an All-Star reserve, dominated
rookie center Yao Ming
, and if not for a 15-point second quarter
by Taylor, Cleveland's halftime advantage would have been
bigger than 54-45.
"I knew it was going to be a hard game for me since (Yao) is so
tall and he has such a good shot range. He's a pretty good
player, so I got pumped up," said Ilgauskas, who did much of his
damage from the perimeter, where Yao was reluctant to follow.
Mobley sank a basket to open the third quarter, but the Cavs
responded with a 10-5 spurt and maintained a double-digit lead
throug most of the period.
After Cleveland matched its biggest bulge at 88-74 on a short
jumper by Carlos Boozer
with 10:07 remaining, the Rockets began
to show interest.
Mobley and Taylor each scored 10 points and Houston closed
within 103-101 on Taylor's layup with a minute left. Ilgauskas
missed a jumper and Posey was fouled driving to the hoop, but
the 82.5 percent foul shooter made just 1-of-2.
After another miss by Ilgauskas, the Rockets took off in
transition, but Francis' long pass for Yao was too short and
easily picked by Palacio.
"No disrespect to Cleveland, but at the end, they gave it to
us," Taylor said. "We've got to learn how to finish these
games. It takes too much energy to come back and get within
reach and not finish it off.
"You can't have turnovers like we had at the end of the game,
they killed us."
Francis scored 10 of his 16 points in the first quarter and
fellow All-Star Yao added 14 on 4-of-8 shooting. Francis also
had six assists and six turnovers. He leads the league with
4.15 turnovers per game.
"Physically, I know guys were kind of tired," said Francis, the
Western Conference's starting All-Star point guard. "Mentally,
we really didn't focus tonight on anything. I can't even begin
to think how bad we played."