Knicks are 0-3 on MSG
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L
96
102
New York vs Cleveland
96 - 102
Record: 2-6
Nate Robinson scored a season-high 19 points (AP Photo)
Nate Robinson scored a season-high 19 points (AP Photo)
NEW YORK (AP) - LeBron James took over down the stretch, just as he always does. Damon Jones did all the hard work until he was ready.

James and Jones took turns carrying Cleveland and scored 29 points apiece, leading the Cavaliers over the New York Knicks 102-96 Monday night for their third straight victory.

Jones kept Cleveland in the game in the first half with 24 points, and made seven 3-pointers in what was easily his best game of the season. James scored 19 in the second half, and also set up baskets by Donyell Marshall and Anderson Varejao in the fourth quarter, both after New York had closed within two points.

"I had a good first half and hopefully it opened up some avenues for LeBron in the second half," Jones said. "He did his thing down the stretch, as usual."

Nate Robinson scored 19 points and nearly led the Knicks back from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit, but New York fell to 0-3 at Madison Square Garden this season. Jamal Crawford had 18 and Channing Frye added 17, ending his horrendous start to the season.

The Knicks led for most of the first half, but Cleveland stayed close behind Jones, who was 7-of-8 in 17 minutes through two quarters. His three free throws gave Cleveland its first lead at 39-38 with 3:18 remaining, and he followed with a 3-pointer for four-point advantage. He was 6-of-7 behind the arc at halftime, helping the Cavs build a 51-47 lead.

"Damon was phenomenal when we were struggling to put the ball in the hole," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "He gave us a chance to win the ballgame, shooting the way he did in the first."

Jones hadn't been a factor at all this season - his 29 points were two more than he had scored in the first six games. But he has 7-of-10 behind the arc, capitalizing on the open room the Knicks left him while they were focusing on James.

"It's tough, because he can shoot so well," Robinson said. "He shoots the ball really good and that's all he does, is shoot, shoot, shoot. We're trying to help out with LeBron, we can't lose guys like that. "We can't help as much with him on the floor.

James finally heated up midway through the third, making a jumper and following with a steal and bucket about 20 seconds later for a 67-58 lead with 2:36 left in the quarter. He added a 3-pointer that pushed the lead to 12 with 2:02 remaining, and the Cavs were up 71-63 heading to the fourth.

Jones hit another 3 to make it 81-67 with under 10 minutes remaining before the Knicks stormed back. New York hit nine of its first 10 shots in the period, getting within 84-82 on Crawford's floater with 6:15 to play.

Marshall then dunked, and when the Knicks got within two again, James found Varejao inside to make it 90-86. New York eventually got within one when Crawford followed his long 3-pointer with a dunk in transition, but Larry Hughes knocked down a jumper with 1:25 left, and after Stephon Marbury missed a 3, James pushed the lead to six with three free throws.

"Any time our team gets into a pressure situation, I've got to be able to calm down the crowd," James said. "I was able to do that. It helped us down the stretch."

Hughes finished with 14 points for the Cavs, who snapped a three-game losing streak at Madison Square Garden.

A first-team All-Rookie selection last season, Frye had been such a disappointment that his eighth point, with 3:20 left first quarter, was already a season high. He entered averaging only 3.4 points on 22 percent shooting.

"I just try to stay in the gym and things will happen," Frye said. "It is only one game. I just have to keep doing what I have been doing, which is staying in the gym and stay positive."

Steve Francis returned for the Knicks after missing three games with a sprained left ankle. He scored three points in 21 minutes.

Notes:
There was a moment of silence before the game for "60 Minutes" journalist Ed Bradley, who died last week of leukemia. Bradley was a longtime Knicks ticket holder. ... Frye hadn't even attempted a free throw through the first seven games. ... Mets manager Willie Randolph and third baseman David Wright were at the game, as was Yankees catcher Jorge Posada.

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