LOS ANGELES (AFP) – LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers crashed to yet another humiliating defeat against the Orlando Magic on Tuesday as James Harden scored his 15,000th career point to extend Houston’s winning streak to five games.
In Orlando, James scored 25 points but it was not enough to prevent the Cavs from slumping to a 116-98 loss in a roller coaster game.
Cleveland looked to be in the mood for an emphatic win after piling on a massive 43 points in the first quarter and powering to 67-51 at half-time.
But Orlando dominated the second half, outscoring the Cavs 65-31 in the final two quarters to complete a crushing win before their home fans.
A grim night for Cleveland also saw coach Tyronn Lue leave courtside midway through the second quarter with an undisclosed illness. Lue did not reappear and reportedly watched the remainder of the game from the locker room.
Orlando were sparked by 34 points from Jonathon Simmons, on a night when all of Orlando’s starters cracked double digits.
Cavs star James pinpointed a disastrous third quarter – when Orlando poured on 41 points – for the loss.
“They hit some big-time shots in the third quarter,” James said. “The snowball turned into an avalanche in the third. A 41-point quarter is hard to come back from.”
James said Lue’s illness had also affected the team. “Unfortunately he’s sick and that’s all we heard,” James said. “He’s the captain of our ship so it’s a tough blow.”
In New York meanwhile, Rockets star Harden brought up 15,000 career points on as Houston swept to a 123-113 win over the Brooklyn Nets to maintain pressure on Golden State at the top of the Western Conference.
Harden finished with 36 points as the Rockets bagged a fifth straight victory to improve to 39-13, two wins back from the Warriors.
Chris Paul had 25 points, with Clint Capela adding 18 and Gerald Green contributing 16 points from the bench.
Harden was bombarded with chants “M-V-P!” during the game but said afterwards he was not thinking about personal honours.
“Just want to win, and put ourselves in the best position that we can for post-season and then we’ll take it from there,” Harden said.
Golden State meanwhile were thumped 125-105 by Oklahoma City Thunder. Paul George and Russell Westbrook combined to dismantle the Warriors defence. George finished with 38 points while Westbrook added 34.
Kevin Durant led the scoring for the Warriors with 33 points against his former team. Draymond Green was ejected for the third time this season after lobbing the ball at an official.
In Toronto, Kyle Lowry scored 23 points as the Raptors closed to within two games of the Boston Celtics at the top of the Eastern Conference with a 111-91 victory.
Raptors ace Lowry made eight rebounds with four assists while C.J. Miles came off the bench to score 20 points in 15 minutes on court.
DeMar DeRozan had 15 points, with six assists and three rebounds. Kyrie Irving had 17 points for the Celtics on his return from injury.
Irving later shouldered blame for the loss.
“As one of the veterans on this team, I’ve got to be better than that,” he said.
“This one is on me. Kind of just taking responsibility and trying to be better going forward.”
The Raptors’ win puts Toronto at 37-16, second overall in the East. Boston remain in top spot on 39-16.
In New York, Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis suffered a season-ending knee injury as his team were downed 103-89 by the Milwaukee Bucks.
Porzingis landed awkwardly after a dunk and twisted his left knee. An MRI scan later confirmed a torn anterior cruciate ligament.