Howard, Harden push Rockets past LeBron-less Cavs 105-93
CLEVELAND (AP) -- James Harden scored 21 points, Dwight Howard had 17 points and 19 rebounds, and the Houston Rockets roared past Cleveland in the fourth quarter for a 105-93 win Wednesday night over the Cavaliers, who played their sixth straight game without LeBron James.
The Rockets broke away with a 15-5 run in the fourth and handed the Cavs their seventh loss in nine games. Corey Brewer made a pair of 3-pointers and scored eight consecutive points in Houston's spree.
Kyrie Irving scored a season-high 38 and Kevin Love added 17 points and 16 rebounds for the Cavs, who lost their fourth straight at home. J.R. Smith didn't score in 19 minutes in his Cleveland debut. The unpredictable guard was acquired earlier in the week from the Knicks along with guard Iman Shumpert.
James said he's on target to return in a week from a strained back and knee.
During the game, the Cavs pulled off their second big trade in three days, acquiring 7-foot-1 center Timofey Mozgov from Denver in exchange for two first-round draft picks. The Cavs could have used Mozgov in the second half to battle Howard, who grabbed 12 boards after halftime and even jawed with some Cleveland fans in the final minutes.
The Cavs led 74-73 after three quarters and were within 80-79 on Matthew Dellavedova's 3-pointer before the Rockets grabbed control.
Howard scored inside and Brewer knocked down his two 3s and a pair of free throws to make it 88-79. Harden's 3-pointer gave Houston a 98-86 lead with 2:19 left, but the Cavs wouldn't go away and were within seven when Houston's Josh Smith nailed a long 3 to finally finish off Cleveland.
Irving, who missed Monday's loss in Philadelphia with a sore back, scored 23 in the first half, making 9 of 11 shots and moving with his usual cat-like quickness on drives. The All-Star scored 16 in the second quarter, hitting a 3-pointer in the final seconds to trim Houston's lead to 49-48 at the break.
Harden, the NBA's leading scorer at 27 points per game, was just 2 of 10 from the field in the opening half.
As expected, Smith didn't mesh with his new teammates during his first minutes on the floor. The Cavs traded for him to add scoring and they also added Iman Shumpert to improve their defense.
Rockets: G Patrick Beverley, who strained his left shoulder Monday, was in the starting lineup. ... Houston snapped a three-game road losing streak.
Cavaliers: General manager David Griffin said Shumpert will miss at least two more weeks before he can return to the floor. He's missed 66 games the last four seasons. ... Cleveland opens a five-game West Coast trip on Friday. The Cavs are just 4-7 against Western Conference teams.
Rockets: At New York on Thursday.
Cavaliers: At Golden State on Friday.