NEW YORK (AP) — Baron Davis picked up right where LeBron James left off.
It doesn’t matter who suits up for the Cleveland Cavaliers — even the players with names the Knicks don’t know. They simply don’t lose to New York.
Davis scored 18 points in his Cavaliers debut, leading a stunning rally in the fourth quarter as Cleveland beat New York for the 11th straight time, 119-115 on Friday night.
“It’s always great to win at The Garden. The Garden is special, especially playing against a team right now that’s getting a lot of coverage and they were prepared to beat us bad and we didn’t let that happen,” Davis said. “This victory is very sweet because it’s a sense of a miniature rivalry brewing here.”
J.J. Hickson scored 23 and Luke Harangody also had 18, but the spark came from Davis in his first game since his trade from the Los Angeles Clippers last week. He scored 12 points in the final 6-plus minutes after the Knicks had built a 12-point lead, including a 3-pointer that gave Cleveland a 116-112 lead with 10.6 seconds left.
Amare Stoudemire answered with a 3 for the Knicks. But after a free throw by Ramon Sessions, Carmelo Anthony was called for a charging foul after he broke free of Anthony Parker’s attempt to hold him, and the last-place Cavaliers beat the Knicks for the third time this season.
“It’s a tough loss. I really don’t want to say it’s embarrassing, but it is a tough loss … knowing how important it is to take care of home court,” said Anthony, who had to ask the name of Cleveland’s Samardo Samuels, who took the crucial charge from him. “To lose to them guys tonight, it’s a tough one to fathom.”
Stoudemire matched a season high with 41 points and Anthony added 29, but the Knicks still haven’t defeated the Cavs since Dec. 19, 2007.
“I just think we didn’t come with the proper energy that we needed in a game like this. It was a very important game for us, and we didn’t quite accept the challenge of beating these guys,” Stoudemire said. “And this is a team that’s beat us three times this year already, and the motto is to beat the teams we’re supposed to beat.”
It appeared the skid would end Friday as the Knicks built a series of double-digit leads. But Davis, who hadn’t played since the trade because of a sore left knee, made an immediate impact as the NBA’s worst team snapped a 26-game road losing streak.
Anthony Carter’s 3-pointer sent the Knicks to the fourth quarter with an 88-85 lead, and it seemed their superior talent would take over from there. Anthony made the first basket of the quarter, then found fellow newcomer Shelden Williams for a dunk and a 92-85 lead 45 seconds into the period.
Anthony converted a spinning bucket in the lane with 10:07 remaining, sinking the free throw during a loud “Melo! Melo!” chant, then Stoudemire scored to extend it to 100-88.
But Davis had nine points in a 16-4 spurt, and Hickson and Samuels resumed contesting every New York shot at the rim as Cleveland battled back to tie it at 106 on Sessions’ layup with 3:28 to play.
Stoudemire’s jumper gave the Knicks a final lead at 112-110 with 58 seconds left, but Parker answered with a go-ahead 3 with 45 seconds remaining. New York failed to score and Cleveland ran the clock down before Davis, wearing No. 85, nailed a 3 from straightaway for a 116-112 advantage.
Stoudemire and Anthony were often unstoppable offensively. But New York badly missed Chauncey Billups down the stretch while he sat out a second straight game with a bruised left thigh.
When James wore the wine and gold, Cleveland would beat the Knicks with talent. Even though he’s gone now, the Knicks still haven’t been able to solve the Cavaliers. Cleveland was on a 10-game losing streak when it beat New York in overtime in December.
The Cavaliers then simply outworked the Knicks in the second meeting, racking up a 62-42 rebounding advantage in their 115-109 victory last Friday. This time, they snapped a two-game losing streak and showed they could be dangerous the rest of the way with Davis on the perimeter and Hickson attacking the backboards.
“I just think, again, for us it’s a process of trying to get better each game,” Cavs coach Byron Scott said. “Our younger guys are starting to understand what it takes to be a professional athlete in this league.”
New York raced to a 22-10 lead midway through the first quarter, but Cleveland hit four 3-pointers late in the period, two by Davis, and tied it at 32 headed to the second. The Knicks pushed it back into double digits halfway through the second, but still couldn’t shake the Cavs despite shooting 60.5 percent in the half. New York led 64-58 at the break.
Notes: Actress Jessica Alba, a friend of Davis, was seated courtside. … The Knicks were wearing their home whites for the first time since Feb. 9. They had been wearing blue road uniforms from the 1969-70 championship season as part of the NBA’s “hardwood classic” series during their last four home games.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)