CLEVELAND - 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.
Ricky Davis scored 21 points and Zydrunas Ilgauskas added 20 in a matchup with Houston center Yao Ming to lead Cleveland. Rookie power forward Carlos Boozer of Juneau scored 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds for the Cavaliers.
"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 Carlos Boozer Archive
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 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.
Trail Blazers 101, Heat 87
At Miami, Scottie Pippen scored a season-high 26 points for Portland, one more than his previous best set the night before.
The Heat stayed close for three quarters, but the Trail Blazers pulled away with 28 points in the fourth quarter, while the Heat scored 16.
Rasheed Wallace added 22 points, 18 in the second half.
Upset at the at lack of foul calls for his team, Heat coach Pat Riley was shouting at referee Derrick Stafford as the game wound down.
"It's not about you," Stafford shouted back. "Go on TV crying."
Spurs 103, Warriors 99
At Oakland, Tim Duncan had 30 points, 12 rebounds and five assists. Tony Parker added 21 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds, and Stephen Jackson had 14 points and nine rebounds for the Spurs.
Golden State, which won its previous three home games, was led by Gilbert Arenas with 28 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
Hornets 108, Kings 84
At New Orleans, Jamal Mashburn scored 26 points and David Wesley added 17 points and nine assists.
Peja Stojakovic scored 20 to lead Sacramento, which was playing its third game in four days. With Chris Webber out and center Vlade Divac leaving with a strained back after the first half, the visibly weary Kings shot only 33 percent in the third quarter as New Orleans pulled away.
Jazz 105, Grizzlies 84
At Salt Lake City, Karl Malone scored 12 of his 31 points in the third quarter as the Jazz erased an 11-point deficit. John Stockton had 11 assists and 10 points for the Jazz, who avoided being the first team to lose to Memphis in two weeks by outscoring the Grizzlies 63-35 in the second half.
The Jazz were without injured forward Matt Harpring, their second leading scorer and rebounder. Memphis, which was without starting point guard Jason Williams and three injured reserves, took its seventh straight loss.
Nets 111, 76ers 85
At Philadelphia, Kerry Kittles scored a season-high 35 points for the Nets, who have won six of seven and are tied with Indiana for the best record in the East (34-15).
Allen Iverson had 28 points and Keith Van Horn added 16 for the Sixers.
The Nets lost forward Kenyon Martin to a left knee sprain in the first quarter, but Martin said he will play in the team's next game.
Celtics 114, SuperSonics 74
At Boston, the Celtics routed Seattle just five days after the most lopsided loss in Boston history. The 40-point margin was the Celtics' biggest of the season. Last Friday night, they lost to Detroit 118-66.
Paul Pierce scored 26 points as coach Jim O'Brien got his 100th NBA victory. Boston had lost four straight.
Pistons 89, Clippers 80
At Auburn Hills, Mich., rookie Mehmet Okur had the first double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Detroit was missing All-Star Ben Wallace, in Alabama after the death of his mother.