LeBron James delivered another vintage performance at Madison Square Garden on Friday night, scoring 32 points and finishing with his 30th career triple-double to help the Miami Heat beat the New York Knicks, 113-91, for their 11th straight victory.
James had 11 rebounds and 10 assists, silencing the first sustained boos he's ever heard in New York. Hoping he would sign with the Knicks as a free agent, fans usually showered him with raucous cheers, and he always responded by saying how much he loved playing there.
On his first trip to New York since snubbing the Knicks and joining Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, James toyed with the home team in the first half, then dispatched them in the second half.
Elsewhere: The Los Angeles Clippers beat the Pistons - in Detroit - 109-88, to improve their league-worst record to 6-21. It was the Clippers first victory on the road this season. . . . The Indiana Pacers continued their turnaround from last season, beating the visiting Cavaliers, 108-99 - extending Cleveland's losing streak to 10 games, and putting an end to their own three-game skid. . . . Chris Paul had 11 points and 10 assists as the New Orleans Hornets won their second straight, 100-71, over the visiting Utah Jazz. The Jazz came in 10th in the NBA in scoring, averaging 101.4 points per game, but shot poorly and got few second chances as the Hornets finished with a season-high 53 rebounds.
We all have heard about how James and his two Miami amigos have stirred up the Eastern Conference, but there has been some stirring among three other conference teams that has had little buzz. They have done very nicely, thank you very much, and it's time to acknowledge their progress. With that in mind, we offer the following as proof that there is life outside Miami:
The Chicago Bulls wanted to improve on last year's 41-41 finish so they added Utah's Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, and Ronnie Brewer. The Bulls are 16-8.
New York, which desperately wanted James, picked up forward Amar'e Stoudemire and point guard Raymond Felton as part of an overhaul that brought 10 new players. The Knicks are a long way from last year's 29-53 season: They were 16-11 after Friday night's trouncing by the King and his court.
Indiana went 32-50 last season and couldn't pursue James, so they traded for point guard Darren Collison and veteran forward James Posey. The Pacers are 12-13, but they have won at Miami, and would be a playoff team if the season ended right now.
With 722,682 votes, the Lakers' Kobe Bryant leads in early balloting for February's NBA All-Star Game.
Bryant and Kevin Durant (470,881 votes) of the Oklahoma City Thunder top the Western Conference, while the Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard (611,561 votes) and James (607,994 votes) lead the Eastern Conference.
Paper balloting (at NBA arenas) will continue through Jan. 17, while wireless balloting (through mobile phones) and voting on NBA.com will conclude Jan. 23. The game will be played in Los Angeles on Feb. 20.