for this game

Alston keeps Rockets rolling with win over James' Cavaliers

Feb 20, 2008 - 5:03 AM CLEVELAND (Ticker) -- Even All-Star Game MVP LeBron James cannot slow the freight train that is the Houston Rockets.

Rafer Alston scored 22 points and Yao Ming added 16 as the Rockets posted a 93-85 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday.

James picked up his fifth triple-double of the season with 26 points, 11 assists and 13 rebounds but it was not enough to deny the Rockets.

Amazing, James finished strong after going 0-for-7 in the first half, the first time he's been scoreless in a half since the season opener at Dallas.

"I missed too many easy shots that I usually make," James said. "The best thing about this league is we have another game tomorrow."

Houston, which is the fourth-best defensive team in the league (92.7 points per game), has now won nine straight overall and tied the franchise record with its ninth straight victory on the road.

"You try to make (James) work," Houston forward Shane Battier said. "He's most effective in transition and you can't do much about that because he's so much bigger and faster than everybody else. But you try to make it a halfcourt game and you try to surround him with a wall of defenders."

"(Houston) does a terrific job of what we call 'shrinking the floor,'" Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. "It forces you to take jump shots. And when you've got a guy Yao's size that does a nice job of playing in and out of the paint without getting into illegal defense, you don't get a terrific look from the 3-point line."

Rather unexpectedly, it was Alston that fueled the win and not the duo of Yao and Tracy McGrady. The former playground legend hit 6-of-10 from 3-point range to make up for poor performances by the team's two stars.

Yao shot just 3-of-17 from the floor with 14 rebounds and McGrady scored 17 points on 6-of-21 shooting to go with eight assists.

"I'm the beneficiary of having two star players on my team," Alston said. "The Cavs do a good job of double teaming and forcing Tracy off the ball - and I find myself wide open. It's my job to consistently knock it down."

Alston has averaged 21.0 points over his last three outings.

"(Cleveland) was coming at Tracy and coming at Yao and they left (Alston) open," Houston coach Rick Adelman said. "As the season has gone on, he's gotten better and better at it. I thought he played a really solid game tonight."

Overall, it was an ugly shooting night for both teams. The Rockets managed just 40 percent (32-of-79) from the floor while the Cavaliers connected on 38 percent (31-of-80).

"LeBron is the main guy," Yao said. "You can let the rest of the guys shoot the ball, but not him. You have to pay attention to him for 48 minutes. You can't relax for a second."

The Rockets led, 42-36, at the half and never trailed thereafter. McGrady got hot at the end of the third quarter, scoring his team's next six points to give the Rockets a 66-59 lead entering the final period.

"We're sharing the ball," McGrady said. "We don't care who gets how many shots or how many points. We don't care about that. What we really care about is playing great defense and just playing together."

The Rockets pulled away slowly in the fourth with contributions from all different sources. McGrady hit a jumper for a 68-61 lead and Alston later drilled a 3-pointer to stretch the lead to 73-66 with 9:49 left.

A three-point play from rookie Carl Landry made it a 10-point game. Luis Scola, who scored 15 points, then hit a layup and a free throw to stretch the lead to 79-66 with 8:57 remaining.

Cleveland trailed by double digits most of the fourth quarter.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas scored 16 points for the Cavaliers, who have lost two straight.