CLEVELAND — Daniel Gibson should take LeBron James out for a nice dinner.
Not only did James pour in 45 points, his passing led to most of Gibson’s regular-season, career-high 24 as the Cavaliers defeated the New York Knicks 110-106 Friday night at sold-out Quicken Loans Arena.
“I don’t think I played with the energy I know I can play with Wednesday,” said James, who was scoreless in the first half of a 92-74 season-opening loss to Dallas. “I came out with a lot of energy tonight and I think our guys fed off me.”
Gibson, in particular, feasted thanks to feeds from James. The second-year guard, who made 6-of-9 3-pointers, had 23 of his points in 7:09.
The first 11 came in a 4:52 stretch of the first period and included a pair of threes.
The last 12 came in a 2:17 span of the fourth quarter, all on threes.
“It’s not like we haven’t seen that before,” James said in reference to Gibson’s 19-point fourth quarter against Detroit in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals. “Boobie shoots the ball extremely well. When he’s that open, it’s almost like a practice shot.”
With the Knicks unable to contain James, who was 16-of-22 at the line, Gibson got a ton of open looks. Just as important, 13 of the 6-foot-2, 194-pounder’s points came directly off assists by James, including nine in the pivotal fourth period, when the two players combined to score 20 straight Cleveland points.
“That’s the big thing about LeBron that everybody loves: He’s so unselfish,” Gibson said. “Even though he had 40-plus points tonight, he was still finding his teammates.”
James, who broke World B. Free’s team scoring record against the Knicks (39 on April 9, 1984) while recording the 18th 40-point game of his career, finished the night with seven rebounds and seven assists while playing 44 minutes.
Four of the seven assists were to Gibson, who helped the Cavaliers turn an 86-83 deficit into a 98-90 lead by scoring 12 points in a 15-4 spurt. All came on 3-pointers — the first two from the left corner off James assists, the third from the right corner off a James pass and the last from the right wing on a dish from Larry Hughes.
“In the fourth quarter, I was just trying to provide a spark and help the team,” the Gibson said.
Gibson definitely did his part, with Zydrunas Ilgauskas (eight points, 12 rebounds), Drew Gooden (14 points, six rebounds) and Hughes (nine points, four rebounds, five assists) also chipping in.
Hughes was 4-of-5 from the floor in the first half and 0-of-6 in the second, but it didn’t matter because the Cavaliers finally found a way to slow down New York post players Zach Randolph (21 points, 14 boards) and Eddy Curry (18 points, seven boards).
Curry, who was 0-of-5 from the line, had just two points in the pivotal fourth quarter, when Dwayne Jones came off the bench to do a decent job as Cleveland outscored the Knicks 35-26. Randolph had five, but it took 2-of-6 shooting.
James and Gibson, meanwhile, combined for 28 points in the period, with a relentless James getting 16 on 4-of-8 shooting from the field and 8-of-9 at the line.
“Take nothing away from (No.) 23 because he was as good as that other 23 (Michael Jordan) that I played against,” Knicks coach Isiah Thomas said. “He was good tonight. He was exceptional and he wasn’t going to let his team lose. Give him a lot of credit.”
James had 23 points in the first half, which ended with the Cavaliers up 55-54. The 6-8, 250-pounder set the tempo right from the start, feeding Gibson for a 3-pointer that turned into four points when the guard was fouled by Stephon Marbury.
“LeBron was extremely aggressive,” Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. “He’s our leader. We go as he goes. With his aggressive play, we just kind of went with him.”
Gibson’s six 3-pointers were a career high.
• The Knicks got 25 points from guard Jamal Crawford and 19 off the bench from 5-9 Nate Robinson, who made 4-of-5 from beyond the arc.
• The Cavaliers are 14-4 when James scores at least 40 points.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.