CLEVELAND • Like so many other games against the New York Knicks, this one "got too easy" for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
That is what Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said after his team beat the New York Knicks for the 10th straight time, 119-104 on Thursday in the first NBA game back from the All-Star break for both squads.
LeBron James notched his sixth triple-double of the season, with 18 points, 13 rebounds and 15 assists, and Kyrie Irving led Cleveland with 23 points.
But Lue needed James for 37 minutes because the Cavs momentarily allowed the Knicks to turn a blowout into a close game with a sloppy third quarter.
And for a team trying to rest their stars ahead of what looks to be a long play-off run ahead, this was a wasted opportunity.
"We got up and then it got too easy for us and we started messing around," Lue said.
IT'S ALL IN THE MINDSET
We got up and then it got too easy for us and we started messing around... Instead you've got to come out and now guys gotta play more minutes because we're not approaching and taking the game serious once we get up and get easy leads.
TYRONN LUE, Cavs coach, on his team relaxing too much after taking big leads.
"These are the games, third quarter you put a team away, we get our rest. Instead you've got to come out and now guys gotta play more minutes because we're not approaching and taking the game serious once we get up and get easy leads.
"Little disappointed about that, but it was a good win for us after the break."
Kyle Korver scored 20 points off the bench for the Cavs and connected on six three-pointers. Tristan Thompson contributed his fourth consecutive double-double for the Cavs with 10 points and 14 rebounds.
Channing Frye added 14 points for Cleveland and Richard Jefferson scored 14 off the bench.
The Knicks were led by 25 points from Courtney Lee and 20 from Carmelo Anthony. Derrick Rose scored 13.
Rumours swirled for weeks that either Anthony or Rose could be traded, but neither was by the NBA's 3pm deadline.
"Nobody likes to be in limbo," Anthony said. "We wanted to find something worth talking about
"Obviously, nothing was worth bringing to the table."
Kristaps Porzingis did not return for the second half because of a sprained right ankle. He finished with eight points in 16 minutes.
The Cavs have won four straight games overall and are 8-1 this month. The Knicks have lost six of seven games. Cleveland's last loss to the Knicks was on Oct 30, 2014 - the night James formally returned to the Cavs.
This was the 48th regular-season triple-double of James' career. He shot seven of 11 from the field and committed six turnovers.
The Knicks were down 69-51 at half-time but opened the third quarter on an 11-2 spurt. James dished out eight assists, scored six points and grabbed six boards as Cleveland's surprisingly strong second unit of him, Derrick Williams (10 points), Jefferson, Korver and Frye controlled the quarter.
"Just gives us a lot of flexibility defensively," James said. "And it gives us a lot of athleticism and shooting offensively. We got Kyle, R, and Channing out on the floor, and myself and D-Will, we're slashing and doing what we need to do offensively, and we play with a lot of speed."
Irving lost two streaks. Because he did not play in the fourth quarter, he fell two points shy of scoring at least 25 for the sixth consecutive game.
He also had had his string of 29 consecutive made free throws snapped when he missed his first attempt at 3:25 of the second quarter. It was his longest streak since he made 44 straight in 2015.