The Cleveland Cavaliers beat the New York Knicks 126-94 in an Eastern Conference match-up tonight at Madison Square Garden.
Cleveland and New York entered tonight’s game going in opposite directions. Though still first in the Eastern Conference, the Cavaliers entered New York losing three of their last four games and holding a 14-5 record. With a 12-9 record and four straight wins, the Knicks entered tonight’s game in an unfamiliar spot, tied for third in the Eastern Conference standings.
Much of the talk surrounding tonight’s game did not deal with the on-court match-up of some of the NBA’s biggest stars, but with Knicks President of Basketball Operations Phil Jackson. Jackson has recently come under fire for statements about both LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.
James was critical of a comment made by Jackson last month in which Jackson referred to James’ business associates, Rich Paul and Maverick Carter, as his “posse.” The comment drew criticism from James and fans alike who thought that the word posse had possible racial undertones. Jackson’s comment also seemed to discredit Paul and Carter’s business acumen. Jackson has recently expressed regret about commenting on James and his business partners.
As reported by ESPN, Anthony came under fire by Jackson during an interview in which Jackson was asked about New York’s triangle offense. Despite a recent surge of success from the Knicks, Jackson commented on Anthony’s tendency to hold the ball for too long, making New York’s offense stagnant. While Jackson’s comment about Anthony’s style of play may be true, his desire to share that comment publicly during a New York winning streak is peculiar.
James and the Cavs took tonight’s nationally televised game at the world’s most famous arena as an opportunity to publicly embarrass Jackson and the Knicks.
The Knicks fell behind early without their starting point guard Derrick Rose, who sat out tonight’s game because of back spasms. Kevin Love led the charge for Cleveland with 16 points and three threes in the first quarter, giving the Cavs a 36-26 lead.
While the Knicks showed signs of life in the second quarter, Cleveland kept their lead by hitting timely threes whenever New York went on a run. At times in the first half, Cleveland’s offense appeared unstoppable, hitting nine of 18 three-point-shot attempts. James, who has always had an affinity for playing at Madison Square Garden, ended the first half with 19 points and five assists.
While James took Jackson’s comment as extra motivation to embarrass Jackson and the Knicks, it appeared that Anthony took Jackson’s ball hog comment literally, shooting only four shots in the first half.
Cleveland put New York away after halftime with a 29-17 third quarter that featured little to no effort from the Knicks and open shot after open shot for the Cavs.
James finished with 25 points, seven assists, and six rebounds, statistics that would have been much higher had Cleveland needed their starters in the fourth quarter. Love added 21 points for the Cavs and Kyrie Irving added 28 points. After a win Monday against Toronto and tonight’s blowout win in which they made 22 of 40 threes, it appears that Cleveland is back after their recent skid, ready to dominate the Eastern Conference once again.
James will make his return to Miami Friday in Cleveland’s next game against the Heat.
The Knicks’ disappearing act on their home floor should halt all discussion of New York as a serious contender in the east.
Anthony shot four of nine, finishing with eight points, while Kristaps Porzingis shot five of 15 for 12 points. The Knicks’ leading scorer was Brandon Jennings with 16 points.
The Knicks begin a five-game West Coast road trip with a Friday night tilt against Sacramento.
[Featured Image by Kathy Willens/AP Images]