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Houston loses for seventh time in 10 games

2/5/2003

CLEVELAND (AP) -- Milt Palacio, inserted in the starting lineup
just before game time, put the Cleveland Cavaliers in the win
column.

Palacio made a key steal to preserve a one-point lead with 12.2
seconds left, then made two pressure-packed free throws to give
Cleveland a 105-102 victory over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday
night.

Ricky Davis scored 21 points and Zydrunas Ilgauskas added 20 in
a matchup with Houston center Yao Ming to lead Cleveland.

"This was a good win because we put defense and offense
together and got it done," said Palacio. He replaced rookie point
guard Smush Parker, who was put on the injured list with a sprained
right ankle.

Maurice Taylor scored a season-high 30 points to lead Houston,
which nearly overcame a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter, but
lost for the seventh time in 10 games.

"I felt like I had it going and could score whenever I wanted,
but we didn't finish it," Taylor said. "We can't have those
turnovers."

Taylor and Cuttino Mobley, who scored 24 points, rallied the
Rockets from an 88-74 deficit. Houston got within 100-99 when
Taylor scored on an uncontested backdoor dunk with 1:35 to play.

The Rockets trailed 103-102 with less than 15 seconds to play
and had a chance to go ahead after Ilgauskas forced a shot over Yao
that missed badly. Houston's Steve Francis tried to find his
7-foot-5 center running the other way, but threw a pass that was
too low and picked by Palacio.

"I should have kept the ball," Francis said of his sixth
turnover. "But he looked wide open."

Palacio made two free throws to secure the win for Cleveland,
which had lost nine of its previous 10.

"I tried to block everything out at the line," Palacio said.
"I didn't think about how much time was left, that we only had a
one-point lead, that I really needed to make those shots. I tried
to let mechanics take over."

Mobley missed a wild 3-point attempt with :02 left.

Yao scored 14 points, but did not match Ilgauskas' outside
shooting. Cleveland's 7-foot-3 center, who will face Yao again
Sunday in the All-Star game, shot 8-for-17 on a variety of midrange
jumpers.

"He made me run around a lot when he shot," Yao said of the
7-foot-3 Ilgauskas.

Ilgauskas challenged his taller foe early in the game, but had a
dunk attempt swatted away.

"I knew it was going to be a hard game for me since Yao is so
tall," Ilgauskas said. "He's a good player, so I was a little bit
pumped up. I played a little bit more away from the basket, which
allows me to work on other aspects of my game."

Cleveland took early command with a 12-4 run for a 24-18 lead.
The Cavs held a 10-0 rebounding edge during the spurt.

Taylor scored 15 points in the second quarter to help Houston
stay close. The Rockets shot 11-for-17 in the quarter and trailed
at halftime 54-45.

Yao did not score until hitting a hook shot with 42 seconds left
in the first half.

Game notes
Davis also had 10 assists and six rebounds. ``I wanted a
triple-double,'' he said. Teammate Jumaine Jones overheard the
remark and joked, ``Then grab that one rebound that hit you in the
head.'' ... Palacio hit his first seven shots. ... Yao, no stranger
to hype and hoopla, is aware of Akron prep sensation LeBron James.
``I know he is a great high school player and plays as well as
those already in college,'' Yao said before the game. Yao said he
is accustomed to drawing attention, but joked that he will try to
get a break during All-Star weekend. ``I'm going to close my door
and not allow any journalists in,'' he told an interpreter,
laughing. ... Houston shot 4-for-14 on 3-pointers and has hit just
eight of its last 33 from beyond the arc. ... Houston had 10
blocked shots and is 19-2 in games with eight or more blocks. The
other loss was opening night.

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