Rockets 90, Cavaliers 84

Preview | Box Score | Recap

HOUSTON (AP)—The future is bright for the rivalry between LeBron James and Yao Ming, the two most recent No. 1 draft picks. It just didn’t add up to much of a compelling game Wednesday night.

Cuttino Mobley scored 22 points and fed the ball to Yao for a crucial dunk in the closing seconds as the Houston Rockets held off James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 90-84.

The loss snapped Cleveland’s three-game winning streak and gave the Rockets their second victory of the season over the Cavs.

Yao had 17 points and eight rebounds and perked up down the stretch despite four fouls, while James was held in check most of the game.

“It seemed like we had wide open shots in the first half but we didn’t capitalize on them,” James said. “We can’t win without hitting our shots. We missed shots and they made shots. That was the difference down the stretch.”

The Rockets trailed 61-60 at the start of the fourth quarter.

Jim Jackson’s 3-point basket on a feed from Francis put the Rockets back in the lead, and they built a six-point edge, 76-70, on a short jumper by Yao over Zydrunas Ilgauskas with 4:21 to go.

Mobley’s 15-footer with 1:07 to play and Yao’s dunk on an assist by Mobley made it 85-79 with 42 seconds left.

“Everybody was supportive,” Yao said. “Everybody worked hard to pass the ball to me tonight. I didn’t shoot well in the first half. But in the second half, I got going.”

Clarence Weatherspoon had nine of his 12 points in the fourth quarter.

“As a veteran, what I try to do is be active and give some energy to the team,” Weatherspoon said. “The last couple of weeks, I’ve been able to find a way to score. I’ve been able to get myself going and be a part of the offense.”

Ilgauskas and Jeff McInnis each had 17 points for the Cavaliers. Boozer had 16 points and 18 rebounds. His career high is 21 rebounds.

“We got the lead but they came right back and hit a shot to regain the lead,” Boozer said. “After that, they did a good job of protecting the lead and in a close game like this it comes down to defense, and they got the stops down the stretch.”

Trailing 39-33 at the half, James scored seven of Cleveland’s first nine points, including a 17-foot jumper with 10:08 left in the third quarter that gave the Cavaliers their first lead of the game, 43-41.

Cleveland took a 61-60 lead into the fourth quarter as James picked off a bad pass by Jim Jackson for a fast break slam and then fed to Eric Williams for a 3-pointer at the end of the quarter.

Houston built 10-point leads twice in the second quarter, the last time with 5:02 to play. A 15-foot jumper by Boozer with 12 seconds left pulled the Cavs to 39-33 at halftime.

Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy called it the Rockets’ best game since the All-Star break and was pleased with his team’s defense on James.

“When a great player like that shoots what he shot, it was our defense and him just missing shots,” Van Gundy said. “He has poise, vision and command of his game. He is an intelligent basketball player in addition to being asuperior talent.”

Notes

Yao is averaging 19.1 points in Rockets victories and 14.1 points in their losses. … The Cavaliers are the No. 1 rebounding team in the NBA. … The Rockets have a 26-6 record when they lead after the first quarter. … Boozer is averaging 14.1 points for the season, 19.1 points in his 17 gamesprior to Wednesday night. … Boozer had his 24th double-double of the season.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Cleveland
J. McInnis J. McInnis
7-15,  17 Pts
2 Rebs, 10 Assists
 Houston
C. Mobley C. Mobley
9-14,  22 Pts
7 Rebs, 3 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists