Sunday, January 9, 2005

Old-look Cavaliers clobber Knicks


— No matter what era, the Cleveland Cavaliers seldom looked better.

LeBron James hit his first eight shots and scored 22 points to power the Cavaliers, wearing their mid-1970s uniforms, past the New York Knicks, 104-79, Saturday for their third straight victory.

"We wanted to protect our house and make sure people know when they come to Cleveland now they are playing a basketball team," James said.

James, in his fifth game wearing a clear mask to protect a broken left cheekbone, played only 32 minutes and shot 10-for-14 from the field -- including two resounding slams early in the second quarter.

Lucious Harris scored a season-high 16 points as Cleveland had five players in double figures and improved to 13-3 at home, 20-12 overall.

Tim Thomas scored 17 points for New York, which dropped under .500 (16-17) with its fourth consecutive loss.

"We didn't play very well at all," Knicks coach Lenny Wilkens said. "They ran a clinic on us."

Cleveland built a 67-36 halftime lead and coasted to its largest victory over the Knicks. The previous mark of 24 points was set in 1976, when the Cavaliers wore the same striped gold home uniforms they donned in this "throwback game" before a national television audience.

"We played like we were in a pickup game with no cameras on," Knicks forward Jerome Williams said. "You've got to go out there and play with pride and I don't think we did that."

James, as usual, made Cleveland fans proud. His first tomahawk jam brought the sellout crowd of 20,562 at Gund Arena to its feet at 11:08 of the second quarter.

It paled next to his effort 88 seconds later -- when the 20-year-old drove around the left side of the Knicks' defense, underneath the basket, and rammed home a reverse windmill slam.

"I saw the lane open and went for it," James said. "There's not too many guys who can stay with me when I get in the air."

James scored 15 points before taking a rest 7:32 before halftime with Cleveland ahead by 11 and in the midst of a 9-0 run. New York went scoreless for 4:03 until Moochie Norris hit two free throws to bring the Knicks within 44-28.

With all five of its starters on the bench, however, Cleveland extended its lead to 67-36 -- thanks to 74 percent shooting in the first half.

"I don't want to get used to sitting, but that was fun to watch," James said. "Give our second rotation credit. They did a great job."

James said he enjoyed the retro uniforms and joked that he might add another touch soon in honor of rookie teammate Anderson Varejao.

"I'm going to wear a wig," he said in reference to the Brazilian's wild hairstyle. "The fans love him. We all love him. He's got so much energy. I thought I had the most, but he surpasses me."

Varejao had nine points and 10 rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench.

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