LeBron James has played at an incredibly high level since the calendar turned to 2008. The MVP candidate has done that for some time at Madison Square Garden, but it hasn’t led to many wins for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
James looks to lead the Cavaliers to a rare victory at the Garden when they play the woeful New York Knicks on Wednesday.
After being named the Eastern Conference player of the month for January, James was named the East’s player of the month for February on Monday. The All-Star game MVP has averaged 31.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 7.4 assists in 2008, leading Cleveland (34-26) to a 20-8 record.
“It’s just a comfort level I’m in right now that’s at an all-time high,” James said after Sunday’s 95-86 win over Chicago.
The Cavs trailed the Bulls 76-68 with 9:55 to play before James rallied the team to its fifth win in seven games. James finished with 37 points, six rebounds and six assists, and had eight points in the fourth, including six straight in a key stretch late in the quarter.
“I just live for the fourth quarter,” said James, the league’s leading scorer at 30.3 points per game. “When the games are close, that’s when I like to do work. We were just able to take the life out of them.”
James has 77 points, 15 boards, and 13 assists in two games against the lowly Knicks (18-42) this season, but the Cavs have split those contests. On Dec. 19 at Madison Square Garden, James had 32 points, eight rebounds, six assists and six steals, but Cleveland lost 108-90.
The Cavs have won only once in their last six visits to New York and are 5-14 there since the start of the 1997-98 season. In his last four games at MSG, James has averaged 30.3 points while shooting 12-of-22 from 3-point range.
While Cleveland has the fourth-best record in the East, the Knicks have the conference’s second-worst record. They have lost three straight and 14 of 18.
A 100-88 loss to New Orleans on Monday guaranteed the Knicks their seventh straight losing season.
That defeat saw coach Isiah Thomas give more playing time than usual to young players Wilson Chandler, Randolph Morris and Mardy Collins, a potential sign of what’s to come for a Knicks team likely to miss the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year.
Eddy Curry had one of his better games in the last three weeks on Monday, scoring 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting after averaging 6.5 points in his previous eight games. He is averaging 14.0 points on 13-of-21 shooting in two games against Cleveland this season.
Zach Randolph is averaging 19.0 points and 10.0 rebounds against the Cavs this season, but may miss his third straight game with a bruised right foot. He is listed as day-to-day.
Cleveland center Zydrunas Ilgauskas will miss this game with a back strain. The 7-foot-3 Ilgauskas, averaging 13.5 points and 9.6 rebounds, will be re-evaluated next week.