No Kyrie Irving, Mo' Mo Willams? No Problem. The Cleveland Cavaliers rested Kyrie Irving and brought back Mo Williams for his first game in over a month, but the point guard shuffle had little impact as 20-plus point performances from LeBron James and Kevin Love led the Cavs to a statement win against Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks, 107-93.
The Cavaliers came out strong after a loss to Brooklyn on Thursday. A spectacular defensive effort from the team got them out to 17-point first quarter lead, and they never really looked back. The win snapped the Knicks two-game win streak. New York has struggled to stay motivated in the second half of the season, and an attacking defense caught the team flat, shooting just 29.3% from the field in the first half. Rookie Kristaps Porzingis was perhaps the team's sole exception, shooting 50% from the field with 12 points through two periods.
A season high 40-point third quarter, led by four-for-for three-point shooting from Anthony brought the Knicks within 17 and as close as ten in the fourth quarter, keeping LeBron James and Kevin love on the court for much of the second half. Anthony had 23 of his 28 points in the second half and led the team back from a flat start, but fell short.
LeBron James led the Cavaliers with 27 points, 11 rebounds, and ten assists, another memorable triple-double performance at Madison Square Garden, a stage on which he seems to thrive. James's looked especially energized following a dunk over Lou Amundson in the second half, receiving a technical for a well-earned stare-down. He has been all business on the court this week in a return to playoff form despite off-court scrutiny. This is his second triple-double this week. Added with a 30 point performance in a loss to Brooklyn on Thursday, James seems a clear favorite for the Eastern Conference Player of the Week.
Kevin Love had a team-high 28 points, including four-of-nine three-point shooting, to go with 12 rebounds and two assists. He exited the game for a large portion of the third quarter game following an elbow to the back of the head from Robin Lopez. But Love had key plays late, including a fourth quarter three that largely put an end to the Knicks run. It is encouraging to see Love's return to form, especially from three-point range given his recent struggles since the All-Star Break.
With this win, the Cavaliers are now 52-21 and extend to a 2.5 lead for first place in the Eastern Conference. They split their New York road trip but have seen the possible resurgence of "Playoff LeBron" which may not be a bad thing, all in all. Many may worry that the team has failed to find a consistent lineup with just 9 games now remaining in the regular season. But they're finding ways to win without their stars, and for a team that made it to 2-1 Finals lead last season without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, that may not be such a bad thing.