for this game

LeBron, Cavaliers swat Rockets to stay unbeaten at home

Dec 24, 2008 - 4:42 AM By Jeff Brewer PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

CLEVELAND (Ticker) -- With his MVP resume growing, there is another individual honor which has eluded LeBron James - being named to the NBA's All-Defense team. That missing accolade may be resolved this season.

His block of Yao Ming with 1:05 to play will be added to a growing list of highlight defensive plays and helped seal the Cleveland Cavaliers' 99-90 victory over the Houston Rockets on Tuesday.

"That was the best block of the year," Cavaliers guard Mo Williams said. "He's had a lot of them, but that's amazing. That's a big guy. Going up, he's so close to the rim and you have to jump so quick to get it. I think that, in my opinion, that was the best block of the year."

In a battle of two of the league's top defensive teams, Cleveland's dynamic duo of James and Williams carried the Cavaliers to a 14-0 home mark and snapped Houston's four-game win streak.

Sporting the second-best record in the NBA, the Cavaliers (24-4) need wins over Washington (December 25) and Miami (December 28) to complete the 2008 portion of their schedule perfect at Quicken Loans Arena.

James finished with 27 points - including 15 in the third quarter - to go with nine rebounds and five assists. However, he couldn't get his shot going in the fourth quarter, hitting just 1-of-6 from the field. Instead, he took on the role of facilitator to help close out the victory.

"I told Ben (Wallace) that today was a heavyweight fight," James said. "When you go against Houston, you know it's going to be a physical game. The addition of Ron Artest makes them really physical. One of the powers in the East and one of the powers from the West bumped heads tonight."

After the Rockets pulled to within one with a 15-2 run, James found Daniel Gibson for a pair of 3-pointers within 90 seconds as the Cavs extended their lead back to seven to hang on.

"I just thought we played really hard," Houston coach Rick Adelman said. "We were in trouble all night long. We had a nice comeback, but they made the plays down the stretch."

Williams scored 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting for Cleveland, while Gibson had 11 and six assists off the bench.

After missing four games with a strained right hamstring, Rafer Alston returned to the lineup and paced five Rockets in double figures with 20 points. Yao, limited to 23 minutes due to foul trouble, scored 14 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter.

"He got a couple (fouls) for hitting people," Adelman said. "All I know is they took him right out of the game."

Ron Artest added 14 points for the Rockets.

Trailing, 60-59, midway through the third quarter, Cleveland ripped off a 23-8 spurt for an 82-68 lead with 10:09 to play. Williams scored seven points in the surge.

The Rockets (19-10) shaved the Cavaliers' lead to 86-85 with just under six minutes to play on the strength of a flurry keyed largely by Yao and Aaron Brooks.

Enter Gibson, playing in just his second game since returning from a toe injury. With most of the Rockets' attention focused on James, the All-Star forward kicked out to Gibson on the perimeter twice for what proved to be the daggers.

"From a physical nature and a mental toughness standpoint, yes, it was a taxing game for both teams," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "It was good to see our team respond the right way."

With time winding down and Houston trying to pull back to within five, LeBron emphatically swatted Yao Ming under the basket to bring Cleveland's crowd to its feet - breaking the Rockets' backs in the process.

Brooks wound up with 10 points and three assists in 21 minutes for Houston, while Tracy McGrady was held to just four points.

"I couldn't get it going, one of those nights where I'm not 100 percent," McGrady said. "I just didn't have the lift."