for this game

LeBron goes for 52, triple-double to sink Knicks

Feb 5, 2009 - 5:28 AM NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Sixty-one points? Hardly. Nonetheless, LeBron James followed up Kobe Bryant's record-setting performance at Madison Square Garden with a standout performance of his own.

The superstar forward posted 52 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers past the New York Knicks, 107-102, in a surprisingly tight contest on Wednesday.

Not only did he register his 21st career triple-double, but James put up his second 50-point effort at the Garden in less than a year, after he went for exactly 50 in a victory over the Knicks last March.

"I have no answer for it," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "I don't know how it happened and why he's able to do some of the things the he does."

Just two nights earlier, the Knicks were victimized by Kobe Bryant in the Los Angeles Lakers' 126-117 victory, as the reigning MVP went for an MSG-record 61 points. James may have fallen nine points shy of the mark, but he made every play possible to carry the Cavs past a feisty New York squad buoyed by Al Harrington's big night.

"Kobe Bryant's performance was unbelievable and the biggest part was because they won the basketball game," James said. "He was able to accomplish that and I feel the same way. I think tonight was a good performance by me individually, but the biggest thing was that we won the ballgame and got another road win."

After scoring from all over the floor through the first three quarters, James did most of his damage in the final session in the paint, repeatedly attacking the basket against a practically defenseless New York frontcourt. Nate Robinson's short jumper with just under five minutes remaining in the fourth pulled the Knicks to within one, but James answered moments later with a driving layup to extend the lead to three.

Harrington, who scored 39 points on 16-of-24 shooting, responded with a jumper of his own, but James was on the attack once again on the other end, this time drawing contact and burying a pair of foul shots. Finally, with just over two minutes to go, David Lee knocked down two free throws to cut the Knicks' deficit to 100-99. But New York could not contain James, who exploded into the lane once again for an easy lay-up.

"Obviously LeBron controlled the whole game, not only scoring but getting assists and rebounding," Harrington said. "He just played a great game."

The league's leading MVP candidate finished 17-of-33 from the floor and 16-of-19 from the line. A triple-double had been in sight for most of the second half, but James didn't complete it until the last play of the game, as he grabbed Chris Duhon's missed 3-pointer in the game's final second.

"I don't go out there for the numbers. I just play my game," LeBron said. "You guys have seen every phase of my game tonight - scoring, rebounding and assists. And defensively, just trying to attack the opposing team."

It was James' fourth triple-double of the season.

The game marked his first huge performance of the year against the Knicks, who have been linked as a possible future destination for LeBron when he hits the open market in the summer of 2010. He put together a modest, 26-point effort in his first appearance at MSG this season, a 119-101 Cleveland victory on November 25.

But Bryant's record-setting night on Monday raised the proverbial stakes, and the sixth-year star took the bait.

"This is one of the best performances that I've seen, just the way that he did his job," Cleveland forward Ben Wallace said. "He doesn't take plays off. I think the biggest thing is he's committed on the defensive end. He's making it tough for teams to come down and score the basketball."

James came out firing early in this one, and looked to be in prime position to challenge Kobe's mark, scoring 20 points in the first quarter. Seven of those came in the first 2:45 of play, as he connected on a 3-pointer, a dunk and a 21-footer to give the Cavs a 10-0 lead right out of the gate.

"It was just the way I was feeling," James said. "I was trying to take what the defense was giving me and I was trying to be aggressive at times. I felt a few shots go in and I just continued to try and work their hand and see if I was feeling hot and I was able to knock a few shots down."

But Harrington almost singlehandedly brought the Knicks back, scoring 10 straight points at one point in the second quarter to slice Cleveland's lead to 43-42.

New York was held at bay until finally breaking through late in the third quarter, as Tim Thomas' 3-pointer capped a 9-0 and gave the Knicks their first lead of the night, 78-77. As it turned out, it was their only lead. James powered to the basket for a three-point play to extend the lead back to four.

"It was another disappointing one tonight, not because of the 50 points but because we had the chances to win, and were right there in the end and couldn't pull it out," Knicks forward David Lee said.

Zydrunas Ilgauskus scored 15 points for the Cavs and Wally Szczerbiak added 12 and 13 boards.

Lee recorded his 37th double-double of the season - second-most in the NBA behind Orlando center Dwight Howard - with 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Knicks.