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LeBron James tops 28,000 career points in Cleveland Cavaliers' win

By
Everett Merrill, The Sports Xchange
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James dunks the basketball. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James dunks the basketball. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

NEW YORK -- With point guard Kyrie Irving out with right quad soreness, LeBron James added the role of facilitator to his scoring repertoire Saturday against the New York Knicks.

James poured in 32 points and became the youngest player to score 28,000 in a career as the Cleveland Cavaliers knocked off the Knicks 111-104 at Madison Square Garden.

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The 32-year-old James has scored 28,020 points, good for eighth place on the NBA list.

James also had a team-high 10 assists, but committed five turnovers in 39 minutes. James is two assists from passing Lenny Wilkens (7,211) for 13th place on the NBA's career list.

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The responsibility of running the offense in Irving's absence didn't affect James' shooting. He was 12 of 20 overall and 4 of 8 from the line.

Irving was replaced with DeAndre Liggins, who scored five points without an assist for Cleveland (34-15). Kay Felder added four points and three assists backing up Liggins.

"It's hard (playing without Irving), but guys have to step up," James said. "Kyrie is more than just a playmaker or a scorer. He is one of our leaders. D Ligs (Liggins) and Kay (Felder) did as good as they could do.

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"They made some mistakes, but as veterans we have to pick them up."

Kevin Love returned to the Cavaliers after missing the past two games with lower back spasms. He had 23 points and 15 rebounds. Love has been the focus of trade rumors over the past few weeks, primarily for the Knicks' Carmelo Anthony.

"I don't really think about it," Love admitted. "I do look at my phone but it's not like that really crosses my mind or that's not what's top of mind at all."

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The Knicks (22-30), who haven't won two straight games since Dec. 20-22 (23 games), were led by Brandon Jennings' 23 points and 10 assists. Anthony scored 17 points but was just 6 of 21 from the floor.

Knicks starting center Joakim Noah exited with a sore left hamstring and did not return. He scored four points and grabbed two rebounds in 6:10. He was replaced by Willy Hernangomez, who posted 16 points, and a career-high five assists in 36 minutes

The Knicks scored six straight points to whittle the Cavaliers' lead to 106-101 with 59 seconds to play, but James found Love open in the corner for an uncontested 3-pointer that put the lead at 109-101 with 44 seconds left.

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Jennings deposited nine points on three treys in the span of less than three minutes early in the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to 92-81, but a James 3-pointer put Cleveland ahead 102-89 with 7:04 to play.

"I just try to push the pace and try to get easy buckets," said Jennings. "When we tried to make our run it was a little too late. We couldn't make stops and LeBron was able to find guys. It seemed like everything we were trying, they would hit a big 3 or something."

A put-back from Love opened an 84-57 Cleveland advantage with 2:36 to go in the third quarter.

"He (Love) has been playing like this all season before he ran into these injuries and had the food poisoning where he lost some weight," said Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue. "He came to play every single night, so that's no surprise to me."

Kyle Korver's 3-pointer from the right corner at the end of the second quarter gave Cleveland its biggest lead of the half at 64-43. Anthony made only 2 of 10 shots from the field in the half.

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James reached 28,000 with a step-back jumper that gave the Cavaliers a 45-31 lead with 6:49 left in the second quarter.

James had eight points and six assists while pacing the Cavaliers to a 34-29 first-quarter lead. Love played the entire quarter, scoring 10 points and grabbing eight rebounds.

NOTES: Cleveland is 13-0 against the Atlantic Division this season. ... The Cavaliers have won nine straight over the Knicks. ... Knicks G Derrick Rose missed his fourth straight game with a sprained left ankle. ... The Knicks shot just 50 percent (14 of 28) from the line. ... Over the last three games, Knicks C Willy Hernangomez is averaging 15.7 points, 11.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists over 31 minutes. ... LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony have played against each other 29 times with James holding a 17-12 edge and outscoring Anthony 26 points to 22 points a game. ... The Cavaliers have the oldest (29.7 years) roster in the league. ... The Cavaliers won the first two meetings, 117-88 on opening night and 126-94 on Dec. 7, dealing the Knicks their two most lopsided losses of the season. ... Saturday marked the eight-year anniversary of LeBron James scoring 52 points in New York. ... Cleveland plays its next three games on the road. The Knicks play three straight at home, including a game against the Los Angeles Clippers, who have been linked to F Carmelo Anthony in trade rumors.

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