NEW YORK — Carmelo Anthony and rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. each scored 29 points, J.R. Smith embarrassed a couple of defenders on his way to 19, and the New York Knicks beat the Cavaliers 117-86 Thursday night for their fourth straight victory.
The Knicks led nearly all the way and wrapped up a 10-6 January after going just 9-21 through the end of December. They have rebounded from losing the first three games on their franchise record-tying, eight-game homestand and can finish it with a winning record if they beat Miami on Saturday night.
Anthony scored 18 in the first quarter, only two off his total from his franchise-record, 62-point game Friday night. But he sat nearly half of the second quarter to fall well off the pace, as he had 37 points at halftime that night.
He still scored enough to become the 50th player in NBA history to surpass 19,000 points.
Hardaway had a career high, but the dazzling plays were provided by Smith, who left Anthony Bennett standing still on one basket and Tristan Thompson on his backside on another.
Smith was starting for Iman Shumpert, who was out with a sprained right shoulder. The Knicks were also missing Andrea Bargnani (left elbow ligament), Kenyon Martin (sprained left ankle) and Amare Stoudemire (sprained left ankle), who are all starters or key reserves.
Even without them, they cruised to their third easy victory during their winning streak.
Kyrie Irving scored 24 points for the Cavs on a day in which his long-term commitment to Cleveland was again questioned.
Bennett, the No. 1 overall pick, was coming off a season-best 15 points in his last outing. But this one was more the type of forgettable performance that has made up his season, and he finished with four points on 1-of-6 shooting.
He came in a little more than 4 minutes into the game, and the Knicks immediately began attacking him. Smith had the ball in the corner and blew by him along the baseline before pulling the ball down while in the air and then pulling it back up before slamming it in. Anthony had the ball near the free throw line on the next possession, easily went by the rookie and laid it in to make it 26-9.
The lead was still 17 after one, the Cavaliers scoring 21 points to edge Anthony by three. The Knicks doubled them up at 58-29 when Anthony made two free throws with 4:23 remaining in the half, and New York led 60-36 at halftime.
Smith had more fun later when his crossover dribble caused Thompson to fall over backward while he was making a jumper.
The Cavaliers have lost three straight and five of six. General manager Chris Grant said Wednesday that the Cavs’ “lack of effort is just not acceptable,” but they were so bad so fast in this one that it was hard to tell if the effort was any better.
But the bigger concern for Cavs fans may have come earlier in the day, when an ESPN.com writer wrote that Irving, the 2011 No. 1 pick, was already telling people privately that he wanted out of Cleveland.
More nights like this wouldn’t make him interested in staying.
Without Anderson Varejao (bruised left knee), they allowed the Knicks to shoot 57 percent from the field. Dion Waiters finished with 21 points.