LeBron James scored 33 points in his only visit to Madison Square Garden this season, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 100-91 victory over the New York Knicks on Friday. James, who will be a free agent next summer and has been strongly linked with a move to New York, added nine assists and eight rebounds. The NBA's Most Valuable Player last season, James also improved his average points total in games at the Garden to 30.4.
"The atmosphere was great," James said. "You almost feel like you're a performer sitting on the stage and they're watching you perform." "LeBron was obviously LeBron," said the Cleveland coach Mike Brown. "He was spectacular but you kind of overlook his numbers because of who he is." In other NBA action, the Los Angeles Lakers rallied from 51-49 down at the halfway point to beat the Memphis Grizzlies 114-98. Kobe Bryant scored 41 points to pass the 24,000 career points mark, making 19 of 30 field-goal attempts, and he paid tribute to others after reaching the milestone.
"You think back on all the years I've been here, all the mentors I've had," Bryant said. "I've learned everything from other guys that have been here. There's nothing original in my game." The Denver Nuggets lost their unbeaten record with a 96-88 defeat to the Miami Heat. After five wins, Denver were almost a one-man team this time as Carmelo Anthony scored 30 points but was given little support.
The Heat produced a greater team effort and were led in scoring by Dwyane Wade who had 22 points. Miami, like Denver, now have five wins from six matches. The same applies to the Phoenix Suns who ended the Boston Celtics' unbeaten start to the season. The Suns won 110-103, with Jason Richardson grabbing 34 points and 10 rebounds. "They could see after the first that I had the stroke going," Richardson said. "In this offence, every night it's going to be someone different. It was a feeling tonight, like everything you throw up is going to go in.
"I wanted to come out, be aggressive and take it from there." Meanwhile, the winless New Jersey Nets crashed to a sixth consecutive defeat as they were edged 97-94 by the Philadelphia 76ers, with a three-pointer from Andre Iguodala late in the fourth quarter proving decisive. "I wish we could have played better," Iguodala said. "We'll still take the win. It counts." The Orlando Magic were always in charge against the Detroit Pistons, aided by 22 points from Dwight Howard, as they won 110-103.
The Atlanta Hawks were beaten 103-83 by the Charlotte Bobcats, while the Houston Rockets had 21-point games from Trevor Ariza and Carl Landry in their 105-94 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Milwaukee Bucks beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 87-72, and 27 points from Chris Bosh guided the Toronto Raptors to a 107-90 triumph against the New Orleans Hornets.
Danny Granger's 22 points helped the Indiana Pacers win 102-96 against the Washington Wizards. Eric Gordon and Baron Davis both had 25-point games as the Los Angeles Clippers enjoyed a 118-90 win over the Golden State Warriors, while Brandon Roy scored 24 points for the Portland Trail Blazers in their 96-84 victory over the San Antonio Spurs. * With agencies