NEW YORK -- Kyrie Irving, playing one night after fracturing a bone in his jaw, nearly single-handedly led the Cleveland Cavaliers to an upset win over the New York Knicks, but Anderson Varejao's missed free throw with one second remaining left the Cavs just short.
The Knicks, playing without injured MVP candidate Carmelo Anthony, barely held off the Cavs, 103-102 on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
After scoring 11 of his career-high 41 points in the final minute, Irving, sporting a black protective mask, drew a double team with the Cavs down two. The guard dished to Varejao, who drew a foul from J.R. Smith.
Varejao made the first free throw but missed the second, allowing the Knicks (18-5) to remain a perfect 10-0 at home.
The Knicks escaped a final frantic minute, in which Irving hit two 3-pointers, two free throws and a layup to keep the persistent Cavs (5-20) in the game.
Knicks guard Steve Novak hit one of two free throws with 9.5 seconds left, giving the Cavs one more chance to tie the score.
Raymond Felton scored 25 points for the Knicks, including four free throws in the final minute, and had seven assists. Tyson Chandler scored 23 points -- all but two coming in the second half -- and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Irving's driving layup with just under a minute to go brought the Cavs to 95-93.
Chandler, though, answered with two free throws with 40.4 seconds left to give the Knicks a 97-93 lead. A few moments later, the Knicks' J.R. Smith poked the ball loose from C.J. Miles as he drove for the basket.
Felton then hit two free throws for a 99-93 lead with 31.4 seconds left.
But Irving again brought the Cavs back.
Despite entering the game just 1-7 in December, Cleveland hung in with the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference through most of the game.
The Knicks opened a 58-48 lead early in the third quarter with Chandler scoring inside twice and Felton hitting two 3-pointers to cap a 10-3 run.
But Irving continued to keep the Cavs close, scoring 10 points in the third quarter to help bring Cleveland within two, 75-73, with 1:05 left in the third.
New York, which got 13 points from Chandler in the third quarter, scored 10 of the next 12, taking an 85-75 lead on Jason Kidd's 3-pointer with 8:36 left in the fourth quarter.
The Cavs persisted in the fourth quarter, continuing to come back every time the Knicks seemed to land a knockout punch.
After Cleveland cut the lead to five again, Felton hit a 3-pointer and Chandler took a feed from him for another dunk to give the Knicks a 90-80 lead. The Cavs again turned to Irving, who scored seven straight points to again cut the margin to seven.
With Tristan Thompson scoring eight points and Irving seven in the first quarter, Cleveland actually opened up a 28-20 lead late in the quarter before the Knicks' 7-0 run brought them within one at the end of the quarter. New York took its first lead of the game on a three by Novak -- who was 4 of 4 from long distance in the first half -- to open the second quarter. The Knicks never trailed after that, despite the close calls.
NOTES: Irving was cleared to play Saturday only after getting fitted for the protective mask he wore to protect the broken bone in his jaw, an injury he sustained Friday night against Milwaukee. Irving, who missed 11 games this season with a broken finger, fell hard against the Bucks, with his face hitting the floor. ... Anthony's status for Monday's game against the Houston Rockets and ex-Knick Jeremy Lin was uncertain, Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. ... Knicks forward Amar'e Stoudemire (left knee) remained day to day and Woodson said he wasn't sure if he would be able to finally make his season debut during the team's homestand next week. ... Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby were each out for the Knicks with a sore foot. ... Cavs guard Dion Walters (sprained left ankle) was out for Cleveland. ... Longtime Knicks broadcaster John Andariese, who retired before this season, was presented with the Dick McGuire Knickerbocker Legacy Award after the first quarter.