James sits, Cavs still rally to win
Comeback victory over Knicks reaches milestones
By Brian Windhorst
Beacon Journal sportswriter
Even sans LeBron James, it was business as usual for the Cavaliers.
They were senselessly slugish against the lowly New York Knicks -- a routine sight. They were way behind in the fourth quarter -- a routine sight.
They made a big rally to win -- a routine sight.
Trailing by 11 points, the Cavs roared to the finish with defense and big shots, surging to a 91-87 win. It notched a number of numerical milestones and some personal ones, as well.
It was their 10th consecutive win at home, a feat not accomplished since 1997. It was their 30th home win, which hadn't happened since the 1993-94 season. It got their record to 48-31, clinching the most wins since the 1992-93 season and getting coach Mike Brown the most wins in franchise history for a first-year coach.
That's all fine and dandy and will go nicely into the postseason record book, but more important were the non-linear hurdles scaled.
The Cavs hadn't beaten the Knicks in 14 months and suffered more than one draining loss at their hands, so just getting over that hump was of value.
Also, to come from behind without James, who was out with an ankle sprain, was uplifting to the outfit. For the 22nd time this season, the Cavs won a game after trailing in the fourth quarter, which is the most in the NBA.
Finally, it was a return-to-health night for both Larry Hughes and Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
Getting 40 minutes and a chance to handle the ball a great deal for the first time since returning from his epic finger injury, Hughes threatened a triple-double with 26 points, a career-high-tying 13 rebounds and six assists.
In his first start since Dec. 30, Hughes made 8-of-12 shots in the second half and played solid defense down the stretch.
“That is what Larry does,'' Brown said. “He gives you a little bit of everything and sometimes he'll give you a lot of everything.''
In his second game back from an ankle sprain, Ilgauskas had 17 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks. Flip Murray also was big in the fourth quarter, scoring 11 of his 12 points. Donyell Marshall added to the effort with 17 points.
The Cavs did it down the stretch with defense, holding the Knicks to 31 percent shooting in the fourth quarter. Murray made the big shot with a go-ahead 3-pointer with 41 seconds remaining, and the Cavs held on by going six-of-six at the foul line.
“Any win is a big win, but it is good for those guys to get confidence,'' Brown said. “To let them know they can win when the top gun is down.''
The Knicks (22-56) were without coach Larry Brown for much of the second half. He was taken to a Cleveland hospital after the game with an undisclosed illness.
Nate Robinson led the Knicks with 32 points.