CLEVELAND - First LeBron James ripped the seams on his 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, but they still have to learn how to beat them.
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This was a game the Knicks led by 15 in the first half and 13 in 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.
"Right now it feels like we're playing three-fourths of the game," Carmelo Anthony said. "Then we have lapses here and there that give the opposing team some confidence."
It happened Monday against the Spurs and again Wednesday night.
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 coming 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.
He cut to the basket and threw down a Mo Williams' feed with 2:05 left to make it 93-82.
"He's the best player in the world," Kristaps Porzingis said. "He did what he had to do and he's LeBron."
James didn't shoot the ball well. He was 9-for-23, but he finished with 23 points. Williams added 22, and Kevin Love had 11 points and 12 rebounds. Anthony hinted that his friends' poor shooting could have been because of the jersey.
"It was a little tight," Anthony said. A little tight, probably was restricting his shot a little bit.
Anthony led the Knicks with 17 points and 12 rebounds, but he had another poor shooting night -- and he didn't have a tight shirt to blame. He was 6-for-18 from the field. And while James raised his game in the fourth, Anthony couldn't do much.
He shot 1-for-5, scored two points and had his shot blocked by James in the fourth quarter. Anthony is now 12-12 in head-to-head regular-season meetings against James.
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 just 21 minutes. Porzingis played just eight minutes in the second half and went to the bench with his fifth foul with 7:38 left and the score tied 75-75. It was 88-79 when he returned.
The Knicks were just 7-for-21 with 17 points in the fourth quarter. "I just have to be smarter and not commit some stupid fouls that don't matter that much," Porzingis said.
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. It don't matter if he got it or somebody else got it."
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 year.
They're much improved from last season, as they showed from the outset in this game. The Knicks jumped out 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. A Porzingis' put-back dunk with 2:47 left was part of an 8-2 run that put that made it 46-37 with 1:55 to go. The two teams combined for one point the rest of the half -- a Kevin Love free throw.
The Knicks led by 53-42 after a Porzingis' dunk 2:18 into the third, but eventually lost late in the quarter. The Cavaliers took their first lead of the night at 70-69 after Matthew Dellavedova threw a lob that Tristan Thompson dunked with 51.2 seconds remaining.
"We just don't understand quite yet how to win collectively as a group," Derek Fisher said. "Playing behind on the road after getting off to a good start, we weren't able to complete it tonight. We'll have to learn how to do that collectively as a team and not feel like we have to rely on any one way to do it. We just have to figure out how to get it done."