Head bowed and resting on clenched fists with his eyes closed, LeBron James sat on the Cavaliers' bench all by his lonesome, appearing to be deep in thought.
Madison Square Garden was dark as the Knicks' starters were announced and James remained motionless, getting mentally prepared for his final scheduled visit of the season. Minutes earlier, James talked about how disrespected he felt and how bothered he was that the Cavs (39-9) had only one All-Star despite having one of the league's best records.
So with that - and Kobe Bryant's record-shattering 61-point performance Monday - in mind, James was getting locked in. All he needed was a white towel draped over his head and he would've looked like a heavyweight boxer waiting for the bell so he could charge at his prey.
James' razor-sharp focus didn't get him Bryant's Garden scoring record, but he still found a way to do something that hadn't happened in 34 years. He had 52 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds in a 107-102 win over the Knicks, becoming the first player to get at least 50 points in a triple-double since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on Jan. 19, 1975.
"I don't go out there for the numbers. I just play my game," said James, who grabbed a rebound almost as the buzzer sounded to chalk up his fourth career triple-double this season and 21st overall.
"You saw every phase of my game tonight with scoring, rebounding, assists and defensively. If it happens that way, it's great ... I never thought you would look at a boxscore and see somebody with 50 points and a triple-double."
James, whose 52 points are the third-most by an opponent in Garden history behind Bryant's output and Michael Jordan's 55, scored 24 in the second half and tortured the Knicks with big plays in the fourth quarter. He had a huge hand in all but one of the Cavs' final 13 points, scoring eight straight to help keep the Knicks at bay.
Al Harrington was brilliant, leading the Knicks (21-27) with 39 points and 13 rebounds.
Tim Thomas' three with 1:28 left in the third gave the Knicks their only lead, 78-77. They got within 100-99 before James crossed over David Lee, broke him down for a layup and a three-point lead with 1:16 left. James hit Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who lost Lee, underneath the basket for an easy layup to stake the Cavs to a four-point lead with 52.6 seconds to play. After Harrington's three rimmed out with about 40 seconds left, James sank two free throws for a 106-100 lead with 22.2 seconds left. Ballgame.
"This is one of those games that you can say is a feel-good loss," Harrington said. "The last two times we played them, they blew us out of the building in the first half. I think we are showing our growth."
Lee had 12 points and 10 rebounds for his 12th straight double-double and 37th this season.
To coincide with last night's game, Nike made the new Zoom LeBron James VI Taxi Cab edition available in select stores in the area yesterday. They're black and trimmed with yellow, yet another marketing ploy for the megastar whose triple-double was the first against the Knicks since Portland's Brandon Roy did it last February.
Yes, the second game of the Knicks' "Dream Week" was all about King James, and by the time it was over, it was obvious the home team had grown extremely weary of all things LeBron.
" ... Yeah, he got 50. He got a triple-double. The stat sheet doesn't mean anything. We got beat by five points."
A quarter-by-quarter breakdown
of LeBron's night:
M FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A R A TO Pts
1st 12 6-10 2-4 6-8 5 2 0 20
2nd 9 4-6 0-0 0-0 0 3 1
3rd 12 4-10 0-2 3-3 3 3 0 11
4th 11 3-7 0-1 7-8 2 3 2 13
17-33 2-7 16-19 10
11 3 52
Compare those totals with Kobe Bryant's record-setting game on Monday:
M FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A R A TO Pts
37 19-31 3-6 20-20 0 3 2 61
Celtics at Knicks
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