There's a consensus developing that LeBron James will earn a second straight MVP award.
It's likely he will only bolster his credentials Saturday night against a team he's tormented in recent meetings as James and the Cleveland Cavaliers look to win their 11th straight game against the visiting New York Knicks.
Cleveland (40-11) is on its longest win streak since a 13-game run from March 7-31 behind James, who has six double-doubles during this span to help the Cavaliers build the best record in the NBA.
Cavaliers coach Mike Brown believes it's a no-brainer his star will repeat as MVP.
"Yeah, hands down," Brown said. "And yes, I'm biased, I throw all that stuff out there but no, he is the MVP."
James has a recent history of putting up big numbers against New York (19-30), and that was the case in the Cavaliers' lone visit this season to Madison Square Garden on Nov. 6. James made 8 of 9 shots for 19 of his 33 points in the first quarter as Cleveland built a 19-point lead en route to a 100-91 victory.
"LeBron's first eight minutes were ridiculous," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said after the game. "That's why he's the MVP and that's why New York's a special place."
That kind of performance is something the Knicks are accustomed to from James, who is averaging 33.5 points and 7.8 assists during the Cavaliers' six-game win streak in the series. New York is often mentioned as a possible destination for the impending free agent, although the Knicks haven't made the playoffs since 2004 and James has stated that his most important goal is winning an NBA championship.
Cleveland outscored Miami in all four quarters to pull away for a 102-86 win Thursday. James scored 36 points and added eight assists after playing some point guard in the first half in place of Daniel Gibson, who was in the hospital with pregnant fiancee, singer Keyshia Cole.
"We try to wear down teams all the time," James said. "If we can't have a knockout punch to open the game, that's OK. We are looking for a full 48-minute game."
Gibson is expected to return against the Knicks. Cavs guard Delonte West took part in a scrimmage Friday, and is listed as day to day after missing seven games with a broken left ring finger.
The Cavs have received back-to-back strong efforts from J.J. Hickson, who has 27 points and 13 rebounds in that span.
Hickson could be matched up against one of the top rebounders in the NBA in David Lee, averaging 11.5 boards. Lee recorded his third straight double-double with a season-high 32 points and 15 rebounds in a 114-107 home loss to Milwaukee on Friday.
Nate Robinson finished with 13 points but shot only 3 of 12 in his first start since replacing the slumping Chris Duhon at point guard. The Knicks turned the ball over 10 times in the second half after they had only one turnover at the break.
"For whatever reason we just got, I don't know if their pressure wore us down to where we just got I don't want to say lazy, but we just weren't very good at details," D'Antoni said.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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