for this game

James hits for 50 as Cavs down Knicks

Mar 6, 2008 - 5:06 AM By Larry Fleisher PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Some fans bowed down, others were in awe. At the end of the night, it was just another normal performance in a spectacular season for LeBron James.

James scored 50 points - one shy of his season high - as the Cleveland Cavaliers pulled out a 119-105 victory over the New York Knicks on Wednesday night.

James also had 10 assists, eight rebounds and four steals, hitting 16-of-30 shots - including 7-of-13 from the arc - and 11-of-16 free throws for the Cavaliers (35-26), who have won six of their last eight and moved 1 1/2 games ahead of Toronto (33-27) for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.

"Tonight, I just got that feeling," James said. "I didn't want to allow us to go out there and not get this win because we have played pretty well."

It was James' fifth career 50-point showing and six shy of his career best set at Toronto on March 20, 2005. He fell two shy of equaling Kobe Bryant's NBA season high set Sunday against Dallas but also matched the Los Angeles Lakers superstar's streak of 19 straight games with 25 or more points set February 9-March 25, 2007.

"He's done a tremendous job spending time working on that jump shot," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. "He and (assistant coach) Chris Jent have a relationship going, it's off the charts. They help each other big time. LeBron showed tonight that he can do it all, and that is why he is the MVP."

There were times when James was content to get his teammates involved and other instances when he was intent on taking over. He did that by scoring Cleveland's final 10 points of the first half and its final 10 of the third quarter.

James had several highlight-worthy plays, including a step-back 3-pointer over Jared Jeffries with 44 seconds remaining in the third. That put Cleveland ahead by three, and it took an 84-82 edge into the fourth before the 23-year-old phenom took over down the stretch with 15 points, including one stretch in which he hit four straight three-pointers.

"It's much better (as his teammate)," Cleveland forward Ben Wallace said. "As a visitor, you don't want to have a guy have a night like that, especially at your expense. But tonight I'm playing with him, and I hope he has a night like that every night."

The first 3-pointer came with 3:50 remaining and put the Cavaliers ahead, 102-98. By the time his barrage was done, Cleveland was up by 11 with just over a minute remaining.

"We tried to do everything that we possibly could but he was really good," said Knicks coach Isiah Thomas, who used rookie Wilson Chandler on James in the fourth. "You hate to be on the receiving end of something like that.

"I have been on the receiving end as a player against (Michael) Jordan and I have watched Jamal Crawford do it a couple of times to here. When you get a guy on the road like that, a 50-point performance is tough to overcome. He was spectacular."

A strong league MVP candidate, James had Madison Square Garden on the edge of its collective seat, even causing a fan with the superstar's jersey on to run on the court toward Cleveland's bench as the game was winding down.

"It's a great feeling," James said. "You get a fan to come down here and express the way he feels about you. The way I played, I'm his favorite player. It never happened.

"I respect him and respect his pride and for him to come out there and tell me something like that, it's like (the most) unbelievable thing to ever happen to me."

That came moments after a majority of the 18,760 fans saluted him with a standing ovation and chants of 'MVP, MVP.'

"This ranks really high because of the point of where it happened - the Mecca of basketball," James said. "I've dreamed about playing well in this building and overtaking (it). To get a standing ovation in the greatest basketball arena in the world is a dream come true for me."

But while James' final numbers may have looked effortless at times, it was a struggle for the Cavaliers to put away the Knicks. They appeared to do that early in the third when they took a 62-54 edge.

The Knicks stormed back with a 20-4 run which put them in front 74-66 with 5:04 remaining on Jamal Crawford's 3-pointer. New York took a 90-88 edge on Nate Robinson's shot from the arc with just over 10 minutes remaining, but Cleveland went ahead for good when James found Damon Jones for an open 3-pointer with 9:18 left.

That sparked a 11-4 run which put Cleveland ahead 99-94 with just over 5 1/2 minutes remaining. The Knicks hung around and were within one on Crawford's eight-footer with 4:29 left.

James answered with back-to-back 3-pointers which put Cleveland in front 105-98 before finishing matters.

"LeBron can basically do what he wants because he's so much stronger than everyone else and when he is hitting jumpers like that he is tough to guard," Crawford said.

James scored 20 points in the first half on 7-of-12 shooting. He scored 18 in the second, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from half-court which gave Cleveland a 58-54 lead at halftime.

Crawford scored 25 points and Robinson added 24 for the Knicks, who played without forward Zach Randolph (right foot) for a third straight game and were dealt their fourth straight loss.

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