ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Cleveland Cavaliers' luck seemed to keep getting worse, until Monday night.
The Cavs were without three of their top players, and nearly lost two others in a 30-point drubbing Sunday night to the Denver Nuggets -- Zydrunas Ilgauskas with back spasms, Damon Jones with a sprained ankle. Both played Monday, but were game-time decisions.
Then, Cleveland's plane was grounded Sunday night with a mechanical failure. The Cavaliers tried until early Monday morning to fly to Orlando before giving up for the night. They didn't arrive until about 1:30 p.m. Monday for the 7 p.m. tipoff.
"It just throws your whole rhythm off and your routine off," James said. "And you know you are not going to get the same good sleep you were going to get once you land into a city."
Hughes led the way, scoring 23 in the third quarter on 6-for-7 shooting, including two 3-pointers and an assortment of drives and jumpers. He also hit nine of 10 free throws in the period.
"We are coming off a back-to-back, so it was kind of in their favor," Hughes said. "But these games you have to win."
Howard, six days from his first All-Star start, got called out by his coach for perhaps the first time in his career.
"To me, it's a matter of focus," Stan Van Gundy said. "His focus is on the offensive end -- he gets discouraged when he doesn't get the ball. I know the numbers prove that what we need him to focus on to win is defense and rebounding. But that's not what he wants to do right now, and so we've got a little bit of a conflict."
Howard, the NBA's rebounding leader who's averaging 14.5 a game, failed to break double digits in that category for the second time in four games. He had 16 points and nine rebounds and the Magic lost their third of a five-game home stretch before the break.
Van Gundy even sat his star part of the fourth quarter, because Howard lacked effort and said something during a break. But the fourth-year player defused the situation after the game by agreeing with his coach.
"I get frustrated a little bit," Howard said. "But I've got to do what's right for the team. They need me to be focused on what I need to do to help our team win, which is rebound, play great defense and be active."
The teams were closely matched through three quarters, and entered the fourth tied at 86. But Cleveland opened a 98-88 lead, by far its biggest, as the Magic scored only two points in the first 4:48 of the period.
"That was one of the most disappointing games of the year to me, if not the most disappointing," Van Gundy said. "I thought we were right in a very closely contested game."
Drew Gooden was back in the lineup after missing three games with a strained right groin. He scored six of Cleveland's first eight points, but finished with 10. The Cavs were still missing Daniel Gibson (strained hamstring), Anderson Varejao (sprained ankle) and Sasha Pavlovic (sprained foot).
Van Gundy was careful to say Howard didn't disrespect him or his teammates, and didn't feel like the situation couldn't be resolved.
"We'll get him there -- I think he's a high-character guy and I think he understands it," Van Gundy said. "But today that's not where his mind was."
- James took an elbow to the face from Brian Cook in the third quarter trying to get a rebound. He got up slowly, but returned apparently unharmed.
- Cleveland has used 11 different starting rotations, and this is one of its most successful. Hughes, Newble, James, Gooden and Ilgauskas are 5-1.
- Van Gundy continues to shake up his guard rotation. Nelson made his second consecutive start after Carlos Arroyo took over the point for several weeks.