LeBron James let his game do the talking Wednesday as his NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers humbled the New York Knicks 126-94 at Madison Square Garden.
While the Cavs were dismantling the Knicks, Western Conference powerhouse Golden State were producing another dominant win of their own, routing the Clippers 115-98 in Los Angeles.
The Warriors launched a five-game road trip in emphatic style against the third-ranked team in the West.
Cleveland’s trip to New York was the Cavaliers’ first since last month’s comments by Phil Jackson in which the Knicks president described James’s business associates as a “posse” in an interview with ESPN.
James found the term offensive, but insisted it didn’t give him extra motivation.
“I’m motivated for the love of the game,” he said. “I’m motivated by the process. I’m motivated knowing my kids are watching me tonight on national television.
“So I don’t need more,” James said, adding that he had no plans to talk to Jackson about the matter while in New York.
His performance on the floor, however, spoke volumes. He scored 25 points, handed out seven assists and grabbed six rebounds.
Kyrie Irving scored 20 points and dished out six assists. Tristan Thompson pulled down a season-high 20 rebounds and Kevin Love had 16 points for the Cavaliers, who notched their sixth straight win at Madison Square Garden and their eight win in a row over the Knicks.
Cleveland led all the way and were never really threatened.
“We were getting stops and we were able to get out in transition,” said Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue, whose efforts to get his team back to step up their defensive efforts have paid off with two straight victories after a rare three-game slump.
While offense “comes easy” Lue said, defensive effort remains key in the quest for a championship.
“When it comes easy we tend to get caught up in the just back-and-forth instead of getting stops and taking on that tough grind-it-out game,” Lue said. “When you’ve got guys like Kyrie, Bron and Kevin who can score so easy, sometimes that just (becomes), ‘Oh, you scored, but we know we can score the basketball.’
“So now we’ve got to get back to playing Cavaliers basketball on the defensive end.”
– Warriors dominate Clippers again –
Defense was also key in Los Angeles, where the Warriors raced to a 37-19 first-quarter lead — holding the Clippers to just 33 percent shooting in the opening period.
“I really never thought that we got our spirit back after the beginning,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said.
Klay Thompson scored 24 points and Draymond Green contributed 22 as the Warriors beat the Clippers for the seventh straight time.
Stephen Curry chipped in 19 points and six assists. He missed all eight of his three-point attempts but he came up with seven steals to help keep the Clippers out of synch.
Kevin Durant added 16 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for the Warriors, who held Clippers forward Blake Griffin to just 12 points on five-of-20 shooting.
Jamal Crawford led the Clippers with 21 points while point guard Chris Paul notched 15 points with six rebounds and five assists.
Up 62-49 at halftime, Golden State had stretched their lead to 91-75 going into the fourth. They out-scored the Clippers 58-38 in the paint and handed out more than twice as many assists.
“When we don’t turn the ball over and we play great defense we can move the ball, create more possessions,” Curry said. “Obviously to keep a team like that under 100 — that’s pretty special.”
While the Clippers were getting beaten up at Staples Center, the Los Angeles Lakers were taking a pounding in Houston, falling 134-95 to the Rockets.
Eric Gordon came off the bench to score 26 points and James Harden added 25 and eight assists as the Rockets blew out the Los Angeles Lakers 134-95.
The Rockets drained 15 three-pointers, extending their NBA-record streak of games with at least 10 treys to 21. – Agence France-Presse