Good evening Knicks fans! Welcome to a Monday night of Knicks basketball.

I'm Chris Mascaro and I'll be bringing you all of tonight's live game action, as the Knicks (20-38), the 13th place team in the East (8.5 games behind the Bobcats for the final playoff spot), take on the league's reigning MVP and current scoring leader LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers (owners of the NBA's best record at 46-14) at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

This is the Knicks' last meeting with the Cavs before James becomes a free agent this summer and they try to lure him to New York.

But James has stopped discussing his impending free agency — he and the Cavs have enough to worry about down the stretch as he tries to win his first NBA title.

Earlier today, center Shaquille O'Neal (who turns 38 on Saturday) underwent surgery on the injured right thumb he hurt in Boston on Thursday and will miss 6-8 weeks, around the time the postseason begins.

Last year, the Cavs were bounced by Dwight Howard and the Magic in the Eastern Conference semifinals, and they'd like to have their big man at full strength in case those two teams meet again. The Cavs are 4-1 this season against Orlando and Los Angeles, a potential opponent in the NBA finals.

Anderson Varejao was expected to replace O'Neal in the starting lineup, but tonight J.J. Hickson will get the nod at power forward, while Antawn Jamison slides to the 5 spot against the smaller Knicks.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who the Cavs traded to the Wizards for Jamison, is likely to re-sign with the team after being bought out by Washington. But he has to wait until March 21 to do so under NBA rules.

Said point guard Mo Williams about losing Shaq: "We'll weather the storm while the big fella gets some rest."

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Luckily for Cleveland, they still have this guy. James has been especially dominant against the Knicks, who have fallen to Cleveland seven straight times. During that stretch, James, who is averaging exactly 30.0 points per game this season, has averaged 35.4 points (including two 50-point game), 7.9 assists, 7.1 rebounds and 3.1 steals.

In the Cavs' 113-106 win over the Knicks on Feb. 6, James scored 47, including 24 straight for his team in a six-minute span.

Friday in Toronto, LeBron scored a game-high 36 to go along with nine assists in a 126-118 overtime win over the Raptors. In the first half, he was kneed in the thigh by DeMar DeRozan (the aftermath of the hit is pictured above), but he should be at full strength tonight. Coach Mike D'Antoni said Danilo Gallinari will get the "first crack" at guarding James tonight. Good luck, Gallo.

Jamison and Williams each scored 22 in Toronto, as Cleveland won its third in a row after a season-long three-game losing streak from Feb. 18-21 (before that, they had won 13 straight). The Cavs are 3-2 in five games Jamison has played for them since the trade.

On the flip side, the Knicks have lost nine of 10. On Saturday, they lost their sixth straight at home, 120-109 to the Grizzlies.Tracy McGrady's sore left knee limited him to no points in only 15 minutes (all in the first half).

He is averaging 14 points and 25.9 minutes in five games (in which the Knicks are 1-4), since joining the team. He declared himself "ready to go" tonight.

Against Memphis, Al Harrington scored 31 off the bench. But all five Grizzlies starters were in double figures, led by Zach Randolph's 31, and the Knicks were outrebounded 52-32.

Finally, here are tonight's starting lineups (note, Harrington will start in place of Wilson Chandler, who had a death in his family):

Knicks (8-18 on the road this season)

Sergio Rodriguez -- PG

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Tracy McGrady -- SG

Danilo Gallinari -- SF

Al Harrington -- PF

David Lee -- C

Cavs (25-4 at home)

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Mo Williams -- PG

Anthony Parker -- SG

LeBron James -- SF

J.J. Hickson -- PF

Antawn Jamison -- C

Okay, that's all for now. But we've got plenty more to talk about tonight, so let's get the conversation going in the chat box above! And be sure to vote on the poll questions. 

I'll be back after each quarter with updates. 

We're about 15 minutes from hoops on MSG!

 

End of the first quarter: Cavs 38, Knicks 26

Leading scorers: James 14; Walker 9.

Recap: As Clyde Frazier would say, James got off to an inauspicious start, as he drew a foul on the opening possession, but the 78 percent free-throw shooter missed both from the charity stripe. T-Mac hit a jumper on the other end, but then the Cavs went on a 9-0 run capped by a 3-pointer by Anthony Parker.

Harrington answered back with a 3-pointer and a jumper on back-to-back possessions to make it 11-7.

Later, a McGrady turnover led to a loud dunk by LeBron. That was part of Cleveland's 7-0 run to make it 18-7. Bill Walker, who replaced Gallinari after he picked up his second foul, had a thunderous dunk to end the run.

But another LeBron dunk after the Knicks didn't get back after Sergio Rodriguez's layup prompted an irate D'Antoni to call a timeout with 4:54 left in the period and the Cavs up 10 (25-15).

Walker hit a 3-pointer to close the lead to seven at 29-22, but Delonte West's layup pushed the lead back to nine. LeBron sprang free for another dunk after the Knicks didn't get back on defense to give Cleveland a 33-22 lead. Varejao hit a short bucket to close the quarter with the Cavs up 12.

The Cavs had 15 fastbreak points in the quarter and outrebounded the Knicks 13-9.

End of the second quarter: Cavs 74, Knicks 48

Leading scorers: James 18; Walker 14.

Recap: After Leon Powe's layup, Lee completed a three-point play to make it a 41-29 game. Walker's nice move along the baseline finished with an acrobatic short jumper to make it an 11-point game (42-31) after a technical free throw for illegal defense.

But a Varejao ally-oop from West sparked a brief 8-2 run to give the Cavs their biggest lead of the game at 50-33. Gallinari hit a 3-pointer on the other end, but West answered with a jumper with 5:52 to play in the half. Varejao tapped in his missed free throw to make it 54-36.

Harrington scored five straight points, but West rose over McGrady for the jam to make it a 20-poind lead with under 4:30 left before intermission. It was Cleveland's 17th dunk or layup in the game.

McGrady's third bucket of the evening made it 63-46, but the Cavs closed the half on an 11-2 run, including four points from James, to give themselves a 74-48 lead at the half.

The Cavs are outshooting the Knicks 59 percent to 43. They have 19 free-throw attempts to the Knicks' three and are outrebounding them 33-15.

Here are some more halftime stats...

Cavs

James: 18 points, five assists, four rebounds

West: 13 points off the bench on 5 of 9 from the floor and 3 of 5 from the line

Mo Williams: five points, eight assists

Varejao: 12 points on 6 of 8 shooting, 10 rebounds (six offensive) and two assists off the bench.

Knicks

Walker: 14 points and three rebounds off the bench

Harrington: 12 points and two rebounds

Lee: nine points, seven rebounds, four assists, two steals

McGrady: six points, five assists.

 

End of the third quarter: Cavs 101, Knicks 59

Leading scorers: James 22; Harrington 18.

Recap: Parker hit a 3-pointer and Hickson hit 1 of 2 free throws to push it to 78-48 Cavs before Harrington's 3-pointer at the 9:40 mark put the Knicks on the board in the second half.

Later, a Hickson three-point play made it 81-52. After a Lee free throw, Hickson came flying in for a putback jam to push the lead back to 30 at 83-53. He hit a jumper on the next possession to make it 85-53. 

Hickson scored eight of the Cavs' first 11 points of the second half.

James hit consecutive jumpers to push his point total to 22 and give Cleveland a 36-point lead (89-53).

The Cavs closed the quarter on an 10-2 run, including Varejao's dunk to give them 101 points — the fourth straight opponent to score 100+ against the Knicks. Sixteen of the Knicks' last 18 opponents have scored 100 or more.

That's the end of the game, as the Cavaliers defeat the Knicks, 124-93. The Knicks have lost 10 of their last 11, while Cleveland has won four straight.

Cavs: 47-14 (26-4 at home)

Knicks: 20-39 (8-19 on the road)

Scores by quarter for the Cavs: 38, 36, 27, 23

Scores by quarter for the Knicks: 26, 22, 11, 34

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Here are tonight's three stars...

1. James: game-high 22 points (he shot 9 of 17 from the field) with seven rebounds, seven assists, two steals and two blocks in 31 minutes. He sat the entire fourth quarter. He was an astonishing +39 while he was in the game.

2. Varejao: 14 points on 7 of 9 shooting, 10 rebounds (six offense), two assists. He did mostly all of his work in the first half, as did most of the Cavs.

3. Jamison: 17 points, 12 rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block.

Also, Mo Williams had seven points and 10 assists, Delonte West scored 15 points off the bench and J.J. Hickson added 17 points, nine rebounds, two assists and two blocks.

For the Knicks, Bill Walker scored a career-high 21 points with five rebounds in 35 minutes off the bench. Harrington added 18, Gallinari 17, and Lee had 10 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three steals.

The Cavs shot 57 percent from the field, while the Knicks shot 40 percent and were outrebounded 60-31.

Okay, that's all for tonight's game. Thanks to all for coming out!

As always, it was my honor and pleasure to bring everyone all of tonight's live game action. The Knicks return to action Wednesday night at home against the Pistons at 7:30 p.m.
 
See ya'll back here soon! Goodnight!