CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – LeBron James stuffed the box score once again at the New York Knicks expense Thursday night, but what else is new.
James recorded his sixth triple-double of the season and the 48th in the regular season of his career to lead the Cavs to their 40th win of the season, 119-104 over the Knicks Thursday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
“The rest paid dividends for us,” James said. “A couple of possessions guys got a little tired because we hadn’t played in a week, but it was a good start for us after the break.”
In his last 5 games against the Knicks, James has notched a triple-double in 3 of them.
It was another complete performance from the 4-time league-MVP that saw him score 18 points, hand out 15 assists, pull down 13 rebounds and block 3 shots.
James got some help from his supporting cast. Kyrie Irving chipped in 23, Tristan Thompson notched his fourth consecutive double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds and Kyle Korver came off the bench to score 20.
Cleveland hit 15 three-pointers and shot 52.9 percent from the field overall in the victory.
Knockout Punch – Although Tyronn Lue was able to limit James to just over 37 minutes Thursday night he would’ve preferred to get his starters even more rest. Their inability to put away the Knicks in the third quarter made that impossible and frustrated the Cavs’ coach.
“We got up and then it got too easy for us and we started messing around,” Lue said. “These are the games where third quarter you put a team away we get our rest. Instead, you gotta come out and guys gotta play more minutes because we’re not approaching or taking the game serious once we get up and get easy leads.”
New York was able to trim a 21-point lead to 8 in the third forcing Lue to keep his foot on the gas in the final quarter until the 3 minute mark.
Irving agreed with Lue’s point about needing to deliver the knockout punch when they get up by more than 15 in the second half.
“He said I was f-ing around a little bit too much tonight,” Irving said. “Some of the plays that I could’ve made, especially at the end of that third quarter definitely gotta be made, and then defensively we just gotta be better closing out the quarter.”
Back On Track – The Cavs won for the 10th time in their last 12 games following a January stretch that saw them lose 6 of 8.
“We got back to playing our type of basketball,” James said. “I’ve always felt good about our team, but it was just about the way we were playing. I feel really good about the way we’re playing right now.”
James is singing a much different tune then he did in January when he begged for more help and playmakers to help the Cavs defend their NBA title while also questioning the organization’s commitment to win multiple championships.
Lue doesn’t feel James’ comments last month should be held against him now that things have stabilized and the team is moving in the right direction.
“Sometimes just talking to you guys all the time, you’re going to catch guys at bad moments,” Lue said. “You lose a bad game, your emotions are high, you might say anything. It just comes from the frustration of losing to a team that you shouldn’t have lost to and the team hasn’t been playing as good as you want them to play. You can say anything spur of the moment.
“I don’t think him being a competitor and wanting to win and saying something one time isn’t really what he meant.”
With the addition of Derrick Williams on a second 10-day contract, possibly signing Deron Williams this weekend and winning, there isn’t much for James to complain about these days.
Block Party – The Cavs swatted away 10 shots Thursday night with Tristan Thompson leading the way with 4 of them.
James added 3 and Channing Frye had a pair while Irving recorded one.
Ahead Of Schedule – Shooting guard J.R. Smith, out since Dec. 20, continues to rehab and work his way back from surgery on his right thumb. Much like he has in recent games, Smith shot three pointers prior to the win over the Knicks Thursday night.
Cavs general manager David Griffin sounded optimistic about the timetable for Smith’s return Thursday.
“I’d say he’s on schedule, maybe slightly ahead of schedule,” Griffin said.
The Cavs estimated that Smith would need 12-14 weeks to recover from the surgery but the team and Smith have been hesitant to list a specific date of return.
“Surgeries are difficult to come back from,” Griffin said. “Different things and things that weren’t bothering you before in the rehab process start to. We’ll see. He seems to be doing really well. I didn’t realize he could throw a baseball quite as well as he does, but other than that, he’s pretty good.”