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Houston at Cleveland

LeBron's triple-double not enough to stop sizzling Rockets

CBSSports.com wire reports

CLEVELAND -- Shane Battier chuckled before revealing Houston's defensive game plan to stop LeBron James.

"Well, we hoped he had a good time in New Orleans," Battier said.

It was the Rockets, though, who gave James the headache.

Rafer Alston scored 22 points, Yao Ming added 16 points and 14 rebounds, and Houston tied a team record Tuesday night with its ninth straight road win, 93-85 over the Cleveland Cavaliers, who wasted a triple-double from James.

The Rockets entered the NBA's unofficial midseason interruption as the Western Conference's hottest team and they didn't cool off, winning their ninth in a row to improve to 18-3 since Jan. 4.

"We don't want to get tired of winning," said Tracy McGrady, who added 17 points on just 6-of-21 shooting. "A lot of people probably thought the break would be bad for us because we had so much momentum, so much swagger. But everybody came back and we said, 'Let's start it off right."'

And so they did by digging in on defense. Houston last reeled off nine victories in a row on the road in 1993.

Luis Scola added 15 points as the Rockets, one of the league's stingiest teams, won for the 12th time in 13 games. The one constant during the spurt has been a defensive mind-set that was missing early this season.

"It just took time for us to figure it out," Battier said.

James, who won his second All-Star MVP in three years on Sunday in New Orleans, finished with 26 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists. It was his fifth triple-double this season and career No. 15 -- the third youngest to reach that mark behind Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson.

Hounded by Battier, who got help from his teammates, James missed all seven shots in the first half.

"Anyone who says he can guard him (James) one on one is lying," Battier said. "What you have to have is support behind you, great communication. Every time LeBron turned the corner, one of our big men made him think twice about going down the lane. We got him to settle for some jumpers."

And James' shots didn't start falling with regularity until the fourth. His 3-pointer with 10:11 left brought the Cavaliers within 70-66.

However, Alston sank a long 3, reserve Carl Landry converted a three-point play and Scola did too -- all in a less than a minute -- to put the Rockets ahead by 13.

James tried to rally Cleveland down the stretch, but every time the league's best fourth-quarter scorer made a big basket, the Rockets, Alston in particular, answered.

"I missed too many easy shots that I usually make," James said.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Larry Hughes had 16 points apiece for the Cavs, who never got untracked offensively and shot just 39 percent as the Rockets swarmed them from the start.

"What we're developing on this team is a team like the Pistons," McGrady said. "Great defensive team, going out there and playing together and not relying on one or two people to score the rock.

"What we really care about is playing great defense and playing together. And, it showed."


  • James joked that the MVP-clinching dunk he dropped on Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki in the final minute of the All-Star game was payback. "I was mad at Dirk because he stole my point guard," James said, referring to Jason Kidd, whom James was hoping the Cavs would try to get in a trade. "I couldn't get him back no other way."
  • Cavs F Anderson Varejao, sidelined since Jan. 27 with a sprained ankle, has begun running and could return to action next week.
  • Rockets G/F Luther Head was back after missing six games with a strained groin. He scored two points in 11 minutes.
  • Cavs coach Mike Brown spent the All-Star break on the ski slopes in Colorado. "I didn't fall down," he said.
Copyright 2016 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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Rafer Alston (12) scores 22 points and celebrates a ninth straight victory with Carl Landry.  (AP)
Rafer Alston (12) scores 22 points and celebrates a ninth straight victory with Carl Landry. (AP)
Houston (33-20) «2121242793
Cleveland (29-24) 2016232685
HOU:R. Alston 22 Pts
HOU:Y. Ming 14 Reb
HOU:T. McGrady 8 Ast
CLE:L. James 26 Pts
CLE:L. James 13 Reb
CLE:L. James 11 Ast
Players of the Game

L. James

R. Alston

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T. McGrady, SG416-215-828117
R. Alston, PG398-150-256322
Y. Ming, C373-1710-10143416
S. Battier, SF321-20-03243
L. Scola, PF306-93-381315
C. Landry, PF203-42-36018
B. Wells, SG193-51-46027
L. Head, PG111-30-02202
A. Brooks, PG71-20-01113
S. Novak, SF40-10-00000
D. Mutombo, CDid Not Play
S. Francis, PGDid Not Play
M. James, PGDid Not Play
K. Snyder, SGDid Not Play
C. Hayes, PFDid Not Play
Totals 32-7921-3047231993
L. James, SF427-188-111311226
L. Hughes, SG385-155-642216
D. Gooden, PF323-102-47058
Z. Ilgauskas, C318-150-070216
I. Newble, SF284-60-04038
D. Gibson, PG251-52-22115
D. Marshall, PF221-30-03132
D. Brown, SG112-60-03114
D. Jones, PF50-10-02010
D. Jones, PG40-10-00000
E. Snow, PGDid Not Play
A. Varejao, CDid Not Play
S. Pavlovic, SGDid Not Play
S. Brown, PGDid Not Play
C. Simmons, SFDid Not Play
Totals 31-8017-2345162085
Other Games
NY 113 Final
Wash 100
Orl 103 Final
Det 85
Phi 88 Final
Min 104
Char 65 Final
SA 85
Bos 118 Final
Den 124
GS 109 Final
Utah 119
Sac 105 Final
Port 94
Mem 101 Final
Sea 108
Atl 93 Final
LAL 122