|Forward LeBron James easily soars for 2 of his 24 points in Cleveland's 88-80 victory over Portland. (Mark Duncan/Associated Press)|
Houston coach Rick Adelman has started reminding his team what's at stake beyond preserving one of the NBA's all-time winning streaks.
That seems to be the only pep talk the Rockets need.
Tracy McGrady scored 19 points in less than three quarters and Houston routed cold-shooting New Jersey, 91-73, last night in Houston for its 19th consecutive victory, matching the third-longest winning streak in league history.
The Rockets won their 10th straight game by double digits, tying an NBA record last set by the Nets in 2004. They also won their 13th in a row at the
Most importantly, the Rockets closed within one game of the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs for the top seed in the Western Conference. And that's the number Adelman keeps emphasizing.
"I told them [Monday] they have a double whammy going," Adelman said. "Not only do you have a chance to do something remarkable and get this streak going and keep it going, but also, every time you win, you keep shortening the season and you keep that lead that you have over other people and you're moving up the standings."
The Lakers play in Houston Sunday, but the hype for that showdown can wait.
Houston can match the second-longest victory streak in NBA history with a win in Atlanta tomorrow night. The Milwaukee Bucks won 20 in a row during the 1970-71 season. The Lakers won 33 consecutive games during the 1971-72 season.
"It's impressive, and we keep adding on games," point guard Rafer Alston said. "It's fantastic to have your name mentioned and your team mentioned with some of the best teams, some of the best players to ever play the game. It says a lot about our ball club."
The Rockets held the Nets to 30 percent shooting (24 of 79) to match the league's longest run of consecutive wins since the 1999-2000 Lakers won 19 in a row on their way to the first of three straight championships with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal.
Houston shot 46 percent (34 of 74) and pulled away by smothering the Nets on defense and outrebounding them, 41-29.
The Rockets, who have won 23 of their past 24 games, also improved to 7-0 since Yao Ming's season-ending foot injury.
Cavaliers 88, Trail Blazers 80 - LeBron James had 24 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists and recorded his seventh triple-double of the season as host Cleveland rallied to victory in the second half. It was the 17th triple-double of James's career.
The Cavaliers were down by 13 points in the second quarter and didn't take their first lead until late in the third period. Wally Szczerbiak's two free throws with 8:03 left broke a 69-69 tie and gave Cleveland the lead for good.
Joe Smith, playing in place of Ben Wallace, who missed the second half because of back spasms, scored 12 of his 18 points in the second half. LaMarcus Aldridge led Portland with 25 points.
Magic 123, Hawks 112 - Dwight Howard had 26 points and 16 rebounds, Hedo Turkoglu had the second triple-double of his career, and host Orlando rolled past Atlanta. Turkoglu had 23 points, 13 assists, and 10 rebounds as the Magic tied their season-high scoring output. Orlando was 15 of 28 from behind the arc.
Spurs 107, Nuggets 103 - Tim Duncan had 23 points and 18 rebounds, and host San Antonio beat Denver in the second meeting between the teams in four days.
Mavericks 108, Knicks 79 - Dirk Nowitzki scored 18 points in 23 minutes, then was among four starters who got to take the last quarter off as host Dallas polished off listless New York. Wins don't get much easier than this, with the Mavericks scoring 32 points in the first quarter and the Knicks scoring 31 in the first half.
Clippers 99, Heat 98 - Cuttino Mobley made two free throws with 2.6 seconds left and scored 29 points, and visiting Los Angeles beat injury-depleted Miami. It was the sixth consecutive loss for the Heat and third in a row at home.