CLEVELAND - First LeBron James ripped the seams on the sleeves of the Cavaliers' new alternate black uniform top. Then he ripped the Knicks' hearts out.
The Knicks continue to show they can play with some of the NBA's elite teams. This was a game they led by 15 in the first half and 11 in the third quarter. But James took over down the stretch and led the Cavaliers to a 96-86 win over the Knicks last night at Quicken Loans Arena.
Apparently James was uncomfortable in the shirt he was wearing, and with the game on the line he made things very uncomfortable for the Knicks.
James scored 11 points in the fourth, nine of them during a 17-4 run that gave the Cavaliers an 89-79 lead with 3:32 to go. Later James put the exclamation point on his performance when he cut to the basket and threw down Mo Williams' feed.
James didn't shoot the ball well. He was 9-for-22, but he finished with 23 points. Williams added 22, and Kevin Love had 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks (2-3) with 17 points and 12 rebounds, but he had another poor shooting night. He was 6-for-18 from the field. He's now 12-12 in regular-season meetings against James.
Kristaps Porzingis showed no ill effects from a strained neck he suffered in Monday's loss to the Spurs. But foul trouble plagued the big rookie.
He had 13 points in only 21 minutes. Porzingis played eight minutes in the second half and went to the bench with his fifth foul with 7:38 left and the score tied at 75. It was 88-79 when he returned.
The Knicks were 7-for-21 with 17 points in the fourth quarter.
Anthony's record against James in head-to-head meetings didn't matter to the Knicks' star. Anthony wants what James has -- championship jewelry.
"If you are an athlete you want a ring regardless of what happens," Anthony said. "Just because he's my friend that don't [matter] -- I want it. I want a ring."
James has won two NBA championships and has reached five straight NBA Finals. For Anthony, there are no assurances the Knicks will make the playoffs this season.
But they're much improved from last season, as they showed from the outset in this game. The Knicks jumped to a 24-9 lead and were up 32-18 after one.
In the second, the Knicks went 5:25 without a field goal but never lost the lead. Porzingis' putback dunk with 2:47 left was part of an 8-2 run that made it 46-37 with 1:55 to go.
The Knicks led 53-42 after Porzingis' dunk 2:18 into the third but were finally overtaken by the Cavaliers late in the quarter.
Despite the Knicks' improvements, Anthony's dream of winning a championship seems to be a distant one. Yet it appears the Knicks and Anthony are moving in the right direction and James has taken notice.
"I think they've tried to get better, for sure, in the offseason, bringing in some pieces that can help them," James said.
"First of all, the most important thing is that he's back on the floor and he's healthy. I know he's happy about that and just having the opportunity to go out and play again and play for that franchise. So he's excited about what's going on right now."