NEW YORK (AP)—LBJ at MSG was A-OK for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
LeBron James scored 22 points in his first game at Madison Square Garden, where the fans turned on the home team Sunday as the New York Knicks fell behind by 23 points in the fourth quarter of a 92-86 loss.
Whether they were booing or chanting the name of the departed Keith Van Horn, the matinee crowd let it be known that they weren’t happy seeing the Knicks play so poorly. The loss was the fourth in five games for New York, which now embarks on a four-game Western road trip.
James didn’t have his flashiest or most productive game, stepping aside to let center Zydrunas Ilgauskas carry most of the offensive load.
Ilgauskas scored Cleveland’s first eight points of the fourth quarter, having his way against newly acquired backup center Nazr Mohammed, as the Cavs opened the final period with an 8-1 run to go ahead 78-56. New York had a 26-7 run to pull within four, but it wasn’t enough.
Stephon Marbury shot just 4-for-21 in the first three quarters and finished 13-for-34 for 30 points, while Penny Hardaway shot 2-for-13 and Tim Thomas— the main player acquired a week earlier in the trade that sent Van Horn to Milwaukee—had a quiet 10 points.
It was 81-58 with 7:06 remaining when James implored his teammates “C’mon, let’s take ‘em out.” The Cavs wouldn’t score again until 2:53 remained, but it made no difference as New York—suddenly a struggling offensive team— couldn’t close the entire gap.
The game began to get away from the Knicks late in the second quarter when they failed to score on seven of their final eight possessions. Cleveland led 44-40 at the break behind 18 points and 11 rebounds from Ilgauskas.
Ilgauskas’ three-point play capped an 11-4 run to open the third quarter, putting the Cavs ahead 55-44, and Cleveland maintained an 11-point lead entering the fourth quarter.
The booing increased as the Knicks scored just one point on their first seven possessions of the quarter, and the Van Horn chant began as Othella Harrington stepped to the foul line with 9:26 remaining.
New York had a 10-0 run to pull to 81-68 before Boozer scored inside to break the drought.
McInnis’ long jumper as the shot clock expired with 41.3 second remaining gave Cleveland an 85-75 lead. James missed a pair of foul shots, and Marbury pushed the ball upcourt and scored on a drive to make it 88-84 with 18 seconds left. A tip-in by Kurt Thomas made it 90-86, but James sank two foul shots— his only points of the final quarter—with 5.7 seconds left to clinch it.
James was coming off a 32-point performance in a victory over San Antonio on Friday.
“A good basketball player, this is one arena you want to play in,” said James, whose likeness is plastered on a four-story billboard on Seventh Avenue just a block from the Garden. James said he hadn’t seen it yet.
“I like to see myself,” James said. “That might be a scary sight.”
Knicks G Allan Houston missed his 16th game of the season because of a sore knee. He could return sometime during New York’s trip to play the Kings, Suns, Clippers and Nuggets. Houston missed a total of 19 games in his first 10 NBA seasons. The Knicks fell to 8-8 without him. … Cleveland defeated the Knicks for the third time, clinching the season series—and the tiebreaker if the teams finish the regular season with the same record. The Cavs are 2 1/2 games out of eighth place in the East, the cutoff for making the postseason. … The Knicks drew their 16th sellout crowd in 31 home games. … Cleveland snapped a five-game losing streak at the Garden. … The road win was Cleveland’s seventhof the season.