HOUSTON -- The Houston Rockets have won games this season with a balanced offense that almost always produces 100 or more points.
James scored 27 points, but was 8 for 21 from the field. No other Cleveland starter reached double figures and the Cavs matched their season-low point total.
The Cavaliers also had 20 turnovers -- five by James.
"We just can't have unforced turnovers," James said. "You have to take pride in avoiding them and we didn't."
Shane Battier scored 14 points for Houston and played effective defense on James all night. Shaquille O'Neal scored only seven points on 2-for-8 shooting, and was one of three flustered Cavaliers to earn a technical foul.
"No one guy is going to stop LeBron, and no one guy is going to stop Shaq," said Battier, who also had three steals and two blocks. "But our guys did a great job of building a wall behind LeBron and just by being there, they deterred some of the drives. We played really good help-side defense."
Cleveland outrebounded Houston 47-37, but mustered only 19 points in both the first and third quarters. Cavaliers coach Mike Brown was ejected late in the first half for protesting a no-call on a James' drive.
"We lost our composure a little bit," O'Neal said. "Way too many technicals. We still had our chances to win, but we just didn't pull through."
The Rockets have won six of their last seven games against the Cavs in Houston. They beat Cleveland 93-74 last year, holding James without an assist for the first time in his career.
James missed five of his first six shots in this one, part of Cleveland's 6-for-19 start. Battier not only shadowed James on defense, he also contributed at the other end, swishing a trio of 3-pointers in the opening eight minutes.
Houston shot 52 percent (13 of 25) in the first quarter and led 33-19. Cleveland had been the league's highest-scoring team in the first quarter, averaging 29.8 points.
"The way they came out made it tough for us to bounce back," Brown said.
With O'Neal and James on the bench, Ariza drove for a reverse dunk with 7:17 left in the first half for a 39-27 Rockets lead. James returned a minute later, but he and the Cavs continued to struggle.
James backed into Battier with about 90 seconds left and missed a short shot after Chuck Hayes slapped the ball as James turned to shoot. No call was made, and Brown was ejected after storming onto the court and yelling at referee Scott Wall.
The Cavs scored 39 points in the first half, matching a season low, and trailed by 13. James went 3 for 11 from the field in the first half.
Cleveland didn't look much better in the third quarter, either, giving away six turnovers in the first five minutes. Mo Williams and O'Neal earned technical fouls as the Cavs' frustration boiled over.
"We let the zebras get to us, and we let it get away," O'Neal said.
The Rockets missed eight of their first 11 shots out of halftime and still stretched their lead to 60-43.
Houston led 68-58 heading to the fourth and James sank a 3-pointer with 11:10 left to cut the Cavs' deficit to seven. Rockets coach Rick Adelman earned a technical a minute later after Ariza fell to the floor on a drive and no foul was called.
James drove into Ariza and landed on his right elbow with 9:20 left, then stayed down for a few seconds, wincing in pain. He sank two free throws to cut Houston's lead to 71-66.
Ariza hit a jumper and Carl Landry put back an offensive rebound to push the lead back to nine. After Cleveland coughed up its 20th turnover, Ariza sank a 3-pointer and Houston led by 12 again.
Cleveland was held under 101 points for the first time in six games. ... Cavs guard Daniel Gibson, a Houston native and former Texas star, left in the second quarter with a right hand bruise and did not return. ... The Cavaliers were trailing after the first quarter for only the third time in 17 games. ... The Rockets outscored Cleveland 18-2 in fast-break points.