CLEVELAND -- Sprawled across the Gund Arena floor, LeBron James held his head. Cavaliers fans held their breath.
In a split second, James crashed to the court and a season
filled with playoff promise and possibilities had seemingly become
another Cleveland sports calamity.
"He's tough, so I knew he was hurt bad when he didn't get up,"
Cavs guard Jeff McInnis said. "I just pray he's OK."
James bruised a bone in his left eye Wednesday night when he was
accidentally elbowed in the face by Houston center Dikembe Mutombo
in the first half of the Rockets' 98-87 win over the Cavaliers.
James was moving across the lane on defense when he ran into the
7-foot-2 Mutombo, whose sharp elbows have dropped more than a few
NBA players over the years.
"I warned LeBron before the game to watch out," said Cavaliers
guard Eric Snow, who played with Mutombo in Philadelphia. "I've
seen him take out teammates and opponents. You have to be aware
James was taken to the Cleveland Clinic for X-rays and a CT
scan. He was not available for comment after returning from the
hospital. The team said it will have test results and an update on
his condition Thursday.
As he walked into the Cavs' locker room with a hooded sweatshirt
pulled over his head, James looked like a beaten boxer. He didn't
seem too eager to get to his 20th birthday party, which was being
thrown at a downtown club.
Mutombo felt bad about what happened.
"I never saw him," Mutombo said. "The next thing I know,
boom, he was laying on the floor. I hope it's not too bad."
After he was nailed by Mutombo, James immediately dropped to the
floor, covered his eyes and kicked his feet in obvious pain while
lying face down as play continued. When Houston scored, the
officials stopped the action and Cleveland's medical staff rushed
out to help James, who had to be assisted off the court as he held
a towel against his head.
The sellout crowd in Gund Arena fell silent as James walked off.
"That was too bad about LeBron," said Rockets guard Bob Sura,
a former Cavaliers player. "Man, he brings energy into this
building. It was never like that when I played here."
James was coming off a 40-point performance in a win at Atlanta
on Tuesday. He's averaging 25.2 points but had a career-low three
points -- all on free throws -- with three rebounds and five assists
before getting hurt.
McGrady scored 22 points in the second half and 12 in the fourth
quarter, including the Rockets' last seven over the final 2:03.
Trailing 80-69 early in the fourth, the Cavaliers began chipping
away. After a pair of 3-pointers, Drew Gooden's jumper brought
Cleveland within 86-83 with 5:41 left. Gooden scored again to make
it 91-87 with 2:20 left, when McGrady put an end to the Cavs'
McGrady hit a jumper, made two free throws and nailed a long
3-pointer with 32 seconds left to close the scoring. The Cavaliers,
sorely missing James, missed three shots and made two turnovers in
the final two minutes.
James has time to rest up. Cleveland doesn't play again
until Monday at Charlotte. Before the game, Cavs coach Paul
Silas was asked what he bought James for his birthday. "Nothing
yet," Silas said. "We'll see. If he has another 40-point game,
he's going to get something real good." Newly acquired Rockets
G David Wesley was back at Gund Arena for the second time in four
nights. Wesley was traded to Houston on Monday by New Orleans,
which lost to the Cavs on Sunday. Jim Jackson, who was part of the
deal, hasn't reported to the Hornets and has been suspended by the
club. Sura had a season-high 12 assists. James missed three
games last year with a sprained ankle.