CLEVELAND, January 8 – Australian star guard Kyrie Irving scored 38 points but did so in a losing cause Wednesday as the Houston Rockets pulled away late to defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers 105-93.
Houston’s James Harden, the NBA scoring leader, went only 6-of-18 from the field but led the Rockets with 21 points as the visitors outscored the Cavaliers 32-19 in the fourth quarter in taking their third victory in five games.
The Cavaliers remain without injured star LeBron James, the NBA’s number two scorer who has a sore back and knee.
Dwight Howard scored 17 points and grabbed a season-high 19 rebounds for Houston while reserve Josh Smith added 16 points, seven of them in the fourth quarter.
Irving’s season-high point total included only four points in the final period after torching Houston for 34 over the opening three quarters. His first field goal in the fourth quarter did not come until that was only about a minute remaining in the game.
Houston’s Corey Brewer scored eight of his 12 points in the fourth quarter and Trevor Ariza netted 13 points for the Rockets.
J.R. Smith played more than 17 minutes off the bench but went scoreless in his Cavaliers debut, missing all five of his shots. He was part of a three-team, six-player deal earlier in the week.
Kevin Love added 17 points and 16 rebounds for the Cavaliers while Tristan Thompson scored 11 for Cleveland, which lost for the sixth time in seven games. They are 19-17 overall but only 1-5 since James was sidelined.
The Cavaliers open their road trip Friday at Golden State, which has the NBA’s best record at 27-5.
The Rockets improved to 24-11, fifth in the Western Conference.