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

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James, Love lead Cavs past Knicks to 50th win, Central title
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) drives the baseline against the New York Knicks during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Monday, April 9, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

NEW YORK (AP) — LeBron James had 26 points and 11 assists, Kevin Love scored 28 points, and the Cleveland Cavaliers got their 50th win and another Central Division title by beating the New York Knicks 123-109 on Monday night.

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

They reached 50 wins for the fourth time in four seasons since James returned from Miami and the 11th time in franchise history.

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.

Michael 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.

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

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 Beasley appeared in position to stop him before seeking safety and running by him out of the way .

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.

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. … Both James and coach Tyronn Lue said there was no decision yet if James would play Wednesday, which would allow him to play 82 games for the first time in his career.

Knicks: Coach Jeff 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, when asked what he thought 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.