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James, Love lead Cavs past Knicks to 50th win, Central title

NEW YORK (AP) LeBron James used to downplay winning division titles.

Not this time. Not after what these Cleveland Cavaliers have been through this season.

This one is worth appreciating.

''I've kind of like been a hypocrite of that because I'm always moving and trying to figure out how we can be better the next day or whatever the case,'' James said. ''So it's always hard for me to be like, OK, another division crown after everything that's gone on with our team and our ballclub this year, but it's a pretty cool thing.''

James had 26 points and 11 assists, Kevin Love scored 28 points, and the Cavaliers got their 50th win along with that Central Division title by beating the New York Knicks 123-109 on Monday night.

The Cavs reached 50 wins for the fourth time in four seasons since James returned from Miami and the 11th time in franchise history. James has won a record 10 straight division titles in Cleveland and Miami.

Cleveland pulled within a half-game of Philadelphia for the No. 3 spot in the Eastern Conference, bouncing back from its loss to the 76ers on Friday and winning for the sixth time in seven games.

A division title and 50 wins would have been considered shoo-ins for the Cavs before the season, but after injuries, trades and a leave of absence for coach Tyronn Lue, nothing seemed certain.

''It's been it feels like a number of seasons within the season, but it's also gone by pretty fast,'' Love said. ''I know I was injured for a number of games, but it still feels like it was a little bit of a blur, so we got one more left at home and as we always say the real things starts.''

J.R. Smith and Jordan Clarkson added 16 points apiece for the Cavaliers, who made 19 3-pointers and won for the ninth straight time at Madison Square Garden.

Wearing black sneakers that read ''I'm'' on the left shoe and ''King'' on the right, James also had six rebounds and a few of his usual powerful dunks, including one where he broke in with a head of speed and Michael Beasley appeared in position to stop him before seeking safety and running by him out of the way .

Beasley scored 20 points for the Knicks in their final home game of the season, which opened a home-and-home series. Rookie Frank Ntilikina added a career-high 17 and Courtney Lee also had 17.

''I feel like I'm getting better,'' Ntilikina said. ''I'm feeling more comfortable.''

The Knicks remained without injured starters Tim Hardaway Jr. and Enes Kanter.

The Cavs led by only six with under 4 minutes left, but James found Love for a basket, then followed Clarkson's two 3-pointers with one of his own to put away the game.

''They're a great team, and when LeBron's out there it makes it very difficult on guys. You can't guard him one-on-one,'' Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said. ''But, our guys didn't quit, so it was good.''

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: Cleveland nearly had its whole roster available, but Rodney Hood was ruled out with a sore left Achilles tendon. Guards George Hill (sprained left ankle) and Jose Calderon (sore left hamstring) both returned. ... James can play in 82 games for the first time in his career if he plays Wednesday instead of resting for the playoffs, and that's the way he's leaning. ''I'm healthy, so I'm playing,'' he said.

Knicks: Hornacek said Hardaway and Kanter most likely wouldn't play Wednesday, but didn't rule it out. ... Hardaway was called for a technical foul at the end of the first half.

MASTERS MAN

Masters champion Patrick Reed was seated courtside, wearing his green jacket. Love and actor Chris Rock were among those to greet him.

COURTING THE KING

James said Monday morning he hadn't seen the billboard that went up near MSG urging him to play for the Knicks next season, though he was aware of it. Similar billboards had already gone up in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Portland and his hometown of Akron, Ohio.

''Same reaction as I had to every last one of them this year,'' he said of the newest entry. ''I think it's very humbling that cities and organizations want me to play for them, especially at this juncture of my career, so that's it.''

UP NEXT

The Knicks will try to win in Cleveland for the second time this season, after a 114-95 victory on Oct. 29.

Copyright 2018 by AP. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of AP is strictly prohibited.

Key Players
L. James
23 SF
M. Beasley
8 PF
22.3 Min. Per Game 22.3
13.1 Pts. Per Game 13.1
1.6 Ast. Per Game 1.6
5.6 Reb. Per Game 5.6
54.3 Field Goal % 50.8
54.4 Three Point % 50.5
73.1 Free Throw % 77.7
+ 3 Courtney Lee made 3-pt. jump shot 0:11
+ 2 J.R. Smith made layup, assist by Cedi Osman 0:24
  Defensive rebound by Cedi Osman 0:25
  Damyean Dotson missed 3-pt. jump shot 0:30
  Offensive rebound by Frank Ntilikina 0:32
  Frank Ntilikina missed jump shot 0:34
+ 2 Ante Zizic made layup, assist by J.R. Smith 0:41
  Defensive rebound by J.R. Smith 0:51
  Trey Burke missed 3-pt. jump shot 0:54
+ 1 Jordan Clarkson made 2nd of 2 free throws 1:05
+ 1 Jordan Clarkson made 1st of 2 free throws 1:05
Team Stats
Points 123 109
Field Goals 40-85 (47.1%) 46-87 (52.9%)
3-Pointers 19-45 (42.2%) 11-30 (36.7%)
Free Throws 24-28 (85.7%) 6-12 (50.0%)
Total Rebounds 53 43
Offensive 7 8
Defensive 35 29
Team 11 6
Assists 29 26
Steals 9 4
Blocks 2 7
Turnovers 10 14
Fouls 15 20
Technicals 0 1
26 PTS, 6 REB, 11 AST
17 PTS, 6 REB, 5 AST
1234T
away team logo Cavaliers 50-31 26352933123
home team logo Knicks 28-53 25242832109
Team Stats
away team logo Cavaliers 50-31 101.1 PPG 41.4 RPG 19.2 APG
home team logo Knicks 28-53 PPG RPG APG
Key Players
K. Love PF 17.6 PPG 9.3 RPG 1.7 APG 45.8 FG%
M. Beasley PF PPG RPG APG FG%
Top Scorers
K. Love PF 28 PTS 5 REB 1 AST
M. Beasley PF 20 PTS 4 REB 3 AST
47.1 FG% 52.9
42.2 3PT FG% 36.7
85.7 FT% 50.0
Starters MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
K. Love 31 28 5 1 2 0 1 1 9/17 6/13 4/5 2 3 36 +8
L. James 38 26 6 11 1 0 4 2 7/16 3/6 9/10 0 6 51 +14
J. Green 29 10 2 0 1 1 0 4 3/6 0/2 4/5 1 1 14 0
G. Hill 19 5 2 4 2 0 1 0 1/4 1/3 2/2 0 2 16 +6
K. Korver 16 2 5 3 1 0 2 3 1/4 0/3 0/0 0 5 12 0
Starters MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
K. Love 31 28 5 1 2 0 1 1 9/17 6/13 4/5 2 3 36 +8
L. James 38 26 6 11 1 0 4 2 7/16 3/6 9/10 0 6 51 +14
J. Green 29 10 2 0 1 1 0 4 3/6 0/2 4/5 1 1 14 0
G. Hill 19 5 2 4 2 0 1 0 1/4 1/3 2/2 0 2 16 +6
K. Korver 16 2 5 3 1 0 2 3 1/4 0/3 0/0 0 5 12 0
Bench MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
J. Clarkson 22 16 1 3 0 0 1 2 5/9 4/6 2/2 1 0 22 +11
J. Smith 31 16 7 4 2 0 0 2 6/13 4/8 0/0 0 7 33 +14
L. Nance Jr. 18 10 6 0 0 1 1 0 4/6 0/0 2/2 1 5 16 +9
T. Thompson 9 5 4 1 0 0 0 0 2/5 0/0 1/2 1 3 11 +5
J. Calderon 19 3 3 1 0 0 0 1 1/4 1/4 0/0 1 2 8 0
A. Zizic 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1/1 0/0 0/0 0 0 2 +1
J. Holland 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0/0 0/0 0/0 0 0 0 +1
C. Osman 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0/0 0/0 0/0 0 1 3 +1
L. Perrantes - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
R. Hood - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
O. White - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Total 235 123 42 29 9 2 10 15 40/85 19/45 24/28 7 35 224 +70
Starters MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
M. Beasley 26 20 4 3 3 1 4 3 8/13 1/3 3/5 1 3 30 -4
F. Ntilikina 40 17 6 5 1 1 2 2 8/16 1/4 0/0 2 4 33 +3
L. Thomas 32 14 7 1 0 0 0 6 6/9 2/2 0/0 1 6 23 -7
T. Burke 33 12 0 8 0 0 3 0 5/11 1/5 1/2 0 0 25 -21
K. O'Quinn 28 8 4 1 0 2 1 1 4/6 0/0 0/0 2 2 15 +3
Starters MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
M. Beasley 26 20 4 3 3 1 4 3 8/13 1/3 3/5 1 3 30 -4
F. Ntilikina 40 17 6 5 1 1 2 2 8/16 1/4 0/0 2 4 33 +3
L. Thomas 32 14 7 1 0 0 0 6 6/9 2/2 0/0 1 6 23 -7
T. Burke 33 12 0 8 0 0 3 0 5/11 1/5 1/2 0 0 25 -21
K. O'Quinn 28 8 4 1 0 2 1 1 4/6 0/0 0/0 2 2 15 +3
Bench MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
C. Lee 26 17 6 1 0 1 1 2 7/12 3/6 0/0 1 5 25 -21
D. Dotson 19 11 4 3 0 0 1 2 4/9 2/7 1/2 0 4 20 -5
L. Kornet 19 6 2 1 0 2 1 3 2/6 1/2 1/3 0 2 11 -17
I. Hicks 4 2 2 1 0 0 1 0 1/2 0/0 0/0 0 2 5 -8
J. Jack 8 2 2 2 0 0 0 1 1/3 0/1 0/0 1 1 8 +7
J. Noah - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E. Kanter - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
T. Hardaway Jr. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
K. Porzingis - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E. Mudiay - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
T. Williams - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
R. Baker - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Total 235 109 37 26 4 7 14 20 46/87 11/30 6/12 8 29 195 -70