AP Basketball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) – Kevin Love doesn’t appear bothered by back spasms or trade rumors.
And the way the All-Star forward played Saturday, the Cavaliers seem to have no reason to swap him for Carmelo Anthony or anyone else.
LeBron James had 32 points and 10 assists, Love added 23 points and 16 rebounds in his return, and Cleveland beat the New York Knicks 111-104.
The Cavaliers won for the ninth straight time against the Knicks and didn’t even need Kyrie Irving, who didn’t play because of right quadriceps soreness.
Love was back after missing two games and not only made four 3-pointers, but threw down a powerful dunk that had James and teammates on the bench spilling out the court in excitement.
“Overall, I felt pretty good,” Love said. “The thought is on this road trip we’ll be able to get it back to 100 percent.”
The Cavs, who won the first two meetings by an average of 30.5 points, led this one by 27 in the first of four straight on the road.
Brandon Jennings had 23 points and 10 assists in place of point guard Derrick Rose, who missed his fourth straight game with a sprained left ankle. Anthony and Courtney Lee each added 17 points.
“When we tried to make our run, it was a little too late,” Jennings said.
The Knicks have contacted the Cavs about trading Anthony for Love, according to reports, but Love looked the better player Saturday and seemed healthy while playing 35 minutes.
He said being pain-free allowed him to ignore the speculation or being on the same floor as Anthony.
“Maybe the silver lining was getting through the back injury, just going out there playing,” Love said. “Had I not done that, I don’t know if it would have been different or not.”
James became the youngest player to surpass 28,000 points in leading the Cavs to their seventh straight win at Madison Square Garden. And he led the defensive effort against Anthony, who shot just 6 for 20 from the field.
One of those makes was when he stole the ball from James and dunked to cut it to 106-101 with 59 seconds left. But James came down on the next possession and found Love in the corner for an open 3-pointer, then drove around and through the Knicks defense for a dunk that pushed the lead back to double digits.
“They made a run, but we were still handling the game and we were still taking control of the game, but we just had to make a couple plays down the stretch and I was able to do that and Kev was able to do that as well,” James said.
Cavaliers: Coach Tyronn Lue said he didn’t know how long Irving would be out, or whether the Cavs would be pressed into signing another point guard. … Cleveland improved to 13-0 against the Atlantic Division.
Knicks: Starting center Joakim Noah played just six minutes because of a sore left hamstring. … Rookie Willy Hernangomez had 16 points and is averaging 15.7 points and 11.7 rebounds in his last three games.
Lue said he was picking the Patriots to win Sunday’s Super Bowl because of his respect for Bill Belichick. Lue said he became a fan when he was a Celtics assistant under Doc Rivers, when the coaching staffs visited each other.
“I like what he does, I like what he brings, I like who he is as a coach,” Lue said.
TRIPLE, MAKE THAT, DOUBLE-DOUBLE
Saturday was the eighth anniversary of James’ triple-double that wasn’t. He was credited with 52 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds in the Cavs’ 107-102 victory here on Feb. 4, 2009, making him the first player since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975 with 50 points in a triple-double. But the NBA removed the final rebound shortly after following a review of the video.
“We got a win. That’s the only thing that kind of mattered to me,” James said when asked to recall that.
The Knicks honored their 1988-89 Atlantic Division championship team with appearances by Mark Jackson, Rod Strickland, Gerald Wilkins, Trent Tucker and Johnny Newman, the “Bomb Squad” who helped the team set a then-NBA record with 386 3-pointers.
Cavaliers: On Monday visit the Washington Wizards, who have won 17 straight home games.
Knicks: Host the Lakers on Monday, looking to extend a five-game winning streak in the series.
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