LeBron James, Kevin Love lead Cavaliers to 111-104 win over Knicks

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NEW YORK (AP) — LeBron James had 32 points and 10 assists, Kevin Love added 23 points and 16 rebounds in his return from back spasms, and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the New York Knicks 111-104 on Saturday night.

The Cavaliers won for the ninth straight time against the Knicks and didn’t even need Kyrie Irving, who didn’t play because of right quadriceps soreness.

Love was back after missing two games and showed why the NBA champions may have no reason to entertain the trade rumors involving him and Carmelo Anthony that surround the teams.

The Cavs, who won the first two meetings by an average of 30.5 points, led this one by 27 in the opener to a four-game road trip.

Brandon Jennings had 23 points and 10 assists in place of point guard Derrick Rose, who missed his fourth straight game with a sprained left ankle. Anthony and Courtney Lee each added 17 points.

The Knicks have contacted the Cavs about trading him for Love, according to reports, but Love looked the better player Saturday and seemed healthy while playing 35 minutes.

James became the youngest player to surpass 28,000 points in leading the Cavs to their seventh straight win at Madison Square Garden, one of his favorite arenas. And he led the defensive effort against Anthony, who shot just 6 for 20 from the field.

One of those makes was when he stole the ball from James and dunked to cut it to 106-101 with 59 seconds left. But James came down on the next possession and found Love in the corner for an open 3-pointer, then drove around and through the Knicks defense for a dunk that pushed the lead back to double digits.

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: Cleveland improved to 13-0 against the Atlantic Division. … Former Knicks forward Channing Frye scored 14 points.

Knicks: Starting center Joakim Noah played just six minutes because of a sore left hamstring. … Saturday was the fifth anniversary of the kickoff of “Linsanity,” when Jeremy Lin, then a little-known reserve, came off the bench to spark the Knicks a comeback victory and begin his dizzying couple of weeks when he was briefly an NBA star.

SUPER SELECTION

Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said he was picking the Patriots to win Sunday’s Super Bowl because of his respect for Bill Belichick. Lue said he became a fan when he was a Celtics assistant under Doc Rivers, when the coaching staffs visited each other.

“I like what he does, I like what he brings, I like who he is as a coach,” Lue said.

James declined to make a prediction.

TRIPLE, MAKE THAT, DOUBLE-DOUBLE

Saturday was the eighth anniversary of James’ triple-double that wasn’t. He was credited with 52 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds in the Cavs’ 107-102 victory here on Feb. 4, 2009, making him the first player since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975 with 50 points in a triple-double. But the NBA removed the final rebound shortly after following a review of the video.

“We got a win. That’s the only thing that kind of mattered to me,” James said when asked to recall that. “If it happens to come in the flow of the game and I’m able to get a triple-double, cool. But I’ve always, obviously you guys know me, I only care about the win in that sense.”

BOMB SQUAD

The Knicks honored five members of their 1988-89 Atlantic Division championship team that set a then-NBA record with 386 3-pointers. Mark Jackson, Rod Strickland, Gerald Wilkins, Trent Tucker and Johnny Newman were the members of the “Bomb Squad” that made the 3-point shot a weapon under Rick Pitino long before it was utilized the way it is in today’s game.

 

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.

Watch Lakers fan drain half-court shot to win $75,000

Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Lakers
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It might have been the loudest the crypto.com Arena was all night.

Between the third and fourth quarters, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 draining a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.

Murry’s celebration is the best part — with Anthony Davis coming out to celebrate with him (and seeming a little shocked by the hug).

One other big shot fell at this game, but Lakers’ fans didn’t like it as much — Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.