NEW YORK • With point guard Kyrie Irving out with right quad soreness, LeBron James added the role of facilitator to his scoring repertoire on Saturday against the New York Knicks.
He poured in 32 points and became the youngest player to score 28,000 in a National Basketball Association career, as the Cleveland Cavaliers knocked off the Knicks 111-104 at Madison Square Garden.
The 32-year-old has scored 28,020 points, good for eighth place on the NBA list.
He also had a team-high 10 assists, but committed five turnovers in 39 minutes. The responsibility of running the offence in Irving's absence did not affect his shooting. He was 12 of 20 overall and four of eight from the line.
Irving was replaced by DeAndre Liggins, who scored five points without an assist for Cleveland (34-15). Kay Felder added four points and three assists backing up Liggins.
"It's hard (playing without Irving), but guys have to step up," James said. "Kyrie is more than just a playmaker or a scorer. He is one of our leaders. D Ligs (Liggins) and Kay (Felder) did as good as they could do. They made some mistakes, but as veterans we have to pick them up."
Kevin Love returned to the Cavaliers after missing the past two games with lower back spasms. He had 23 points and 15 rebounds.
He has been the focus of trade rumours over the past few weeks, primarily for the Knicks' Carmelo Anthony.
"I don't really think about it," he admitted.
The Knicks (22-30), who have not won two straight games since Dec 20-22 (23 games), were led by Brandon Jennings' 23 points and 10 assists. Anthony scored 17 points but was just six of 21 from the floor.
Knicks starting centre Joakim Noah left with a sore left hamstring and did not return. He scored four points and grabbed two rebounds in 6min 10sec. He was replaced by Willy Hernangomez, who posted 16 points and a career-high five assists in 36 minutes.
"When we tried to make our run, it was a little too late," said Jennings. "We couldn't make stops and LeBron was able to find guys. It seemed like everything we were trying, they would hit a big three or something."