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Final Score: Cavs start slow, beat Knicks 96-86 to win fourth straight

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Early on, it looked like a game the Cavs were going to gift to the rebuilding New York Knicks, but the talent gap closed in the second half and the Cavs ended up winning 96-86, led by Lebron James (23 points, 5 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 assists), who was quiet for the first half and heavy-handedly closed out the second.

LeBron looked generally uninterested for much of the first quarter — with the exception of two master’s class steals that resulted in fast break dunks — seemingly playing at half speed, not moving much without the ball, not driving with the ball, on one set standing with his hands on his hips for several seconds, on another, after Cleveland grabbed a defensive board, walking slowly back down the court and not getting into any offensive position until there were 13 seconds left on the shot clock. And, don’t get me wrong, I’m not attacking LeBron here, I’m just stating what happened. I don’t really care if LeBron takes a quarter, half, game or season off against the Knicks. In the scheme of things, it does’t really matter. The people who get mad about these kinds of things are those that blew a gasket last year over "chill mode" or the Miami "vacation" and reappointed him the best player in the league after the All-Star Break. If 2015 LeBron tried to put up 35 a night in the regular season, those people would’t like the result.

The Knicks looked hungry in the first and, at one point, went on a 9-0 run in 1:42, ending up with a 32-18 lead after the opening quarter.

My favorite two things from the second quarter:

1) Porzingis finding himself one-on-one with Iso Lebron twice, the first of which James just lost the ball giving the 7’3 rookie a cheap stat steal and, the next, LeBron shouldering around him, grabbing a bucket and a foul. Porzingis was advertised by many as the next awkward, gangly, clueless, stick-skinny center that gets bullied in the paint and has guards/forwards blow by him in space. He has more heart and athleticism than advertised. He can move, he can stretch the floor and, for what it’s worth, he has now also thrown down put-back dunks over LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love in back-to-back games. Sure, he’s not pre-Cleveland Shawn Kemp, but I think that he gives some hope to the future of the Knicks.

2) LeBron cutting the sleeves off during the debut of the short-sleeve Cavs jerseys — which, surprisingly, aren’t as bad as most of the others in the league — with about six minutes left in the second after starting 4-11. This seemed like some sort of foreshadowing. The half ended 46-38 New York.

The third quarter was reminiscent of the turning point of the Sixers game last week — the weaker team started falling off, the better one made them pay, even though they were having a rough game.

The third ended 70-69 Cleveland.

*Start of the fourth quarter*

Side-line reporter: "LeBron’s been uncharacteristically quiet. Do you put the ball in his hands in the fourth?"

David Blatt, forcefully smiling, trying not to have a Greg Popovich moment: "He knows what to do."

After checking in at 9:22 left in the fourth, LeBron cut off a pass with 7 minutes left, taking his third fast break steal of the night to the rim. He grabs the rebound on the Knicks’ next possession, dribbles down the court, pulls up for three and gets fouled from behind the line.

The score goes to 81-75 Cleveland.

After a few rebounds, dart passes with no results and an off balance shot, with 4 minutes left, LBJ buries a three — 87-79.

With two minutes left, after a nice Delly drive, Robin Lopez ruins an inbound, turning the ball over before the shot clock even started. LeBron slashes from the three point line and Mo Williams finds him for a devastating dunk — 93-82. And the game’s no longer within logical reach.