|New York vs Cleveland|
|105 - 119|
That only made one of the best nights of James' career even better.
James had 50 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds to win over the Madison Square Garden crowd and lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 119-105 victory over the New York Knicks on Wednesday night.
He shot 16-of-30 from the field, including 7-of-13 from 3-point range, in his second 50-point game this season. He exited with fans standing and chanting "MVP!" in the final minute. One fan in a Cavaliers jersey ran onto the floor toward the Cleveland bench, even saying a few words to James, before being turned away by security and arrested.
"I've dreamed about playing well in this building and it's overtaken of how I could ever dream about," James said. "To get a standing ovation in the greatest basketball arena in the world, it was a dream come true for me. It's one of the best things that ever happened to me."
It could have been scary, with 17-year-old Anthony Erskine from Mount Vernon coming right up to James to talk to him on the bench after James had departed for good with 23 seconds left.
"It was a great feeling. You get a fan to come down there to express the way he feels about you ... told me I was his favorite player, that never happens," James said. "I respect him. I respect his pride and for him to come out there and tell me something like that face to face. It's like the (most) unbelievable thing that ever happened to me."
Erksine said he's been a fan since James was a senior in high school, in 2002.
"I never got a chance to see him in person, and that's my favorite player. I want to be just like him. I never got a chance to meet him. So I finally got a chance to meet him in person," Erskine said.
"I never thought I would get a chance to see him again, so I figured 'Why not?"'
James said he was never afraid when he saw Erskine coming.
"I'm 6-9 and 260," James said. "I'm all right."
The NBA's scoring leader had 45 points in a victory over the Knicks in Cleveland on Nov. 2. He fell two points shy of Kobe Bryant 's NBA-best this season. The Lakers' star had a 52-point game on Sunday against Dallas.
James became the first player with at least 50 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds in a game since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on Jan. 19, 1975.
"You can't take it for granted because he's that good. He's just a great player," Cavs coach Mike Brown said. "I try not to because coaching a guy like that, working with a guy like that, it's probably a once in a lifetime deal. You just try to take advantage of every second that you're with him."
Damon Jones added 15 points and Devin Brown had 14 for the Cavs, who won their third straight.
Jamal Crawford scored 25 points, Nate Robinson added 24 and Eddy Curry had 20 for the Knicks, who dropped their fourth in a row. Cleveland outscored New York 35-23 in the final quarter, with James hitting four 3-pointers.
The Cavs are still trying to mix in four newcomers from a trade while playing without Zydrunas Ilgauskas , Daniel Gibson and Sasha Pavlovic , three key members of their rotation. In the meantime, they've got James to carry them.
Shaking off an injury to his right pinkie early in the game, James scored 15 points in the third quarter, then turned the Knicks back in the fourth with his improved perimeter game.
New York trailed only 99-98 with under 4 1/2 minutes left before James drilled consecutive 3-pointers. He nailed another 3 to make it 110-99 with 2:08 to go, and added one more for good measure about a minute later.
"The 3-ball for him, that's the shot that you would hope that he takes," said Knicks coach Isiah Thomas, who compared James' performance to some of those from Michael Jordan . "However, when he makes them like that, he's virtually unguardable because he's big, he's strong, he's fast and he's unselfish, also. He'll give the ball up."
James banged his right pinkie on the rim on a dunk attempt midway through the first quarter and had it examined during the ensuing timeout, but it barely slowed him. James scored 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting in the first half, tossing in a fallaway 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Cleveland a 58-54 lead.
The Knicks, who welcomed injured Stephon Marbury back to Madison Square Garden for the first time since ankle surgery in January, got 17 points and eight rebounds from David Lee . Lee started in place of Zach Randolph , who missed his third straight game with a bruised right foot.
Notes: If the game in Boston on Wednesday night was an Eastern Conference finals preview, word hadn't reached the Cavs. "I don't even know who's playing in Boston. Who's playing in Boston?" Brown said before the game. Told it was the Celtics and Pistons, Brown noted that people counted out his team last year, too, when it was down 2-0 to Detroit in the conference finals. "You've got to play the games, and once the games get played, then you'll figure out who's right and who's wrong." ... Randolph said he expected to play after the morning shootaround, but apparently said his foot still felt sore after some pregame running.
AP freelance writer Adriano Torres contributed to this report.