LOS ANGELES: Cleveland star Le-Bron James scored 32 points—and became the youngest player to score 28,000 in an NBA career—as the Cavaliers downed the New York Knicks 111-104 at Madison Square Garden on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).
James, 32, took his career points tally to 28,020, good for eighth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
He reached the milestone with a step-back jumper that gave the Cavaliers a 45-31 lead with 6:49 left in the second quarter.
He also handed out 10 assists, and with two more will pass Lenny Wilkens (7,211) for 13th on the career list.
The NBA champion Cavaliers were without guard Kyrie Irving, who sat out with soreness in his right quadriceps. Deandre Liggins started in his place, scoring five points without an assist.
Kevin Love returned to the Cavs lineup after missing two games with back spasms. He contributed 23 points and 15 rebounds as Cleveland took their Eastern Conference-leading record to 34-15.
The Knicks fell to 22-30. They haven’t won two straight games since December 20-22.
Brandon James paced New York with 23 points and 10 assists. Knicks star Carmelo Anthony, the subject of persistent trade rumors, scored 17 points but connected on just six of 21 from the floor.
The Knicks were without point guard Derrick Rose, sidelined for a fourth straight game by a sprained left ankle. And starting center Joakim Noah departed early with a sore left hamstring.
New York showed signs of life late, scoring six straight points to trim Cleveland’s lead to 106-101 with 59 seconds remaining.
But James found Love for an uncontested three-pointer as the Cavs pulled away again.
Wizards drop Pelicans, stretch home win streak
The Washington Wizards poured it on in the fourth quarter to hold off the New Orleans Pelicans 105-91 and stretch their NBA-leading home winning streak to 17 games.
John Wall scored 24 points and handed out 13 assists for the Wizards, who closed the game with a 15-0 scoring run and held the Pelicans without a point for the final 5:51.
All five starters scored in double figures for the Wizards, who won their seventh straight overall and beat the Pelicans for the second time this week.
Anthony Davis had 25 points and 10 rebounds for the Pelicans, who took a three-point lead into the final quarter but ended up losing their fourth in a row.
Tyreke Evans’s basket put New Orleans up 91-90 with 6:02 remaining, but Wall answered by feeding Markieff Morris for a dunk that put Washington ahead for good.
Morris scored seven of his 18 points and Wall added six in the closing stretch, while the Pelicans scored just eight points in the final period.
“I would like to think it was good defense,” Washington coach Scott Brooks said of the final surge.
“It was some of us, and they were missing some shots. I thought we picked it up defensively. Anytime you hold an NBA team to eight points, you’re doing something good.”
Since December 1, the Wizards have produced the best record in the Eastern Conference at 24-9, including 14 wins in their last 16 games. Their last home defeat was December 6 to Orlando.
But they’ll be tested on Monday when they host the NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers, the Eastern Conference leaders who appear to be back on track after a disappointing January.
“I’ve been in some big games before, but I don’t think one bigger this year,” Wall said of the looming clash with the Cavs. “They’ve been playing OK, but they’re the defending champs. We know what team we have to chase in the East.”
LaVine out for season
Young Minnesota Timberwolves star Zach LaVine will miss the rest of the NBA season after tearing a left knee ligament, the team said.
LaVine was hurt in Friday’s 116-108 loss at Detroit, in which he scored 20 points but departed after less than a minute of the fourth quarter after suffering what was first described as a knee contusion.
In a posting on their website, the team said an MRI exam had revealed a torn anterior cruciate ligament that would require surgery at a date still to be determined.
The injury brings LaVine’s third NBA season to a premature close.
He was averaging 18.9 points and 37.2 minutes (third highest in the league) in 47 games.
The high-flying 21-year-old had won the past two editions of the All-Star weekend Slam Dunk contest, but said this month he wouldn’t go for an unprecedented three-peat in the exhibition.