Ilgauskas, playing in just his fourth game because of ongoing
rehab from foot surgery last season, scored a season-high 22 points
to lead the Cavaliers to a 107-102 victory over the Houston
Cavaliers point guard Andre Miller, the NBA's assists leader,
left the game with 5:30 to play with a dislocated right shoulder. Miller will be examined Wednesday night in Cleveland; his status for Thursday's game at Dallas won't be known until after the exam.
Ilgauskas, the 7-foot-3 center from Lithuania, scored 13 points
in the fourth quarter to help the Cavaliers hold off a furious
rally by Houston.
"Z was a factor down the stretch," coach John Lucas said. "He
was the difference in the game."
"Next year, that's the way we're going to play. We're going to
go inside to him and let him carry us. This year, we're just trying
to keep him healthy. We're only going to play him 25 to 30 minutes
a game until he gets completely healthy."
Ilgauskas only played 23 minutes Tuesday. After not getting in
the game in the first quarter, he scored nine points in nine
minutes of the second quarter. He appeared only two minutes in the
third without scoring before having his big fourth quarter.
"I knew they were going to give me the ball then and I just
tried to keep my composure and make shots," Ilgauskas said. "I
got in a rhythm and got some confidence.
"I think I'm getting there. My legs and my conditioning are
getting there but it's going to take time. Hopefully, I can stay
healthy and just play basketball."
His teammates were glad to see him Tuesday.
"We knew we were too big inside for them in the fourth quarter
and we just went in to the big guy," Lamond Murray said. "He's
obviously a good player. He's just been sidelined. He has a variety
of moves, he's 7-3 and you can't stop him inside."
The Rockets, who lost their 11th straight, agreed.
"Ilgauskas made all the difference," coach Rudy Tomjanovich
said. "And he's not even in shape yet. He's big and he's skilled
and he has power and finesse."
Cuttino Mobley had 33 points, including 14 in the fourth
quarter, as the Rockets lost their 11th straight game.
"It's real hard right now," Mobley said. "I personally don't
think we were ready at the start and when you've lost 10 games in a
row, we should have been ready for this game last night."
Oscar Torres added a career-high 28 for Houston, which has its
longest losing streak since the 1977-78 team dropped 13 straight
from Feb. 27 to March 22.
Lamond Murray scored 20 points, and Jumaine Jones added 16
points and 11 rebounds as the Cavaliers improved to 4-1 in the
month of December.
Kenny Thomas scored nine third-quarter points as Houston
narrowed the lead to 81-74 entering the fourth quarter.
Houston closed the gap to 87-86 with 5:47 to play as Mobley
scored nine points early in the fourth. But Ilgauskas scored nine
of the Cavaliers' next 11 points as Cleveland stretched its lead to
98-91 with 2:03 remaining.
Cleveland jumped out to a 16-4 lead in the first six minutes of
the as Houston hit only two of its first 10 shots and had four
Murray's 10 points and Jones' eight helped the Cavaliers take a
lead by as many as 20 the first quarter. Houston hit only 27
percent (6-of-22) from the field that quarter and trailed 32-18.
The Rockets closed the margin to 10 three times in the second
quarter, but Murray had 16 as the Cavaliers led 61-50 at halftime.
The Rockets are 3-14 in games Steve Francis, sidelined with
ruptured plantar fascia tissue in the arch of his left foot, has
not played. ... Houston had won five straight against Cleveland at
the Compaq Center. ... Cleveland is 3-7 on the road this season.
... Cleveland is 6-0 when scoring 100 or more points.