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LeBron appreciates hard-won Central title

The Associated Press NEW YORK (AP) — LeBron James used to downplay winning division titles.

Not this time. Not after what these Cleveland Cavaliers have been through this season.

This one is worth appreciating.

“I’ve kind of like been a hypocrite of that because I’m always moving and trying to figure out how we can be better the next day or whatever the case,” James said. “So it’s always hard for me to be like, OK, another division crown after everything that’s gone on with our team and our ballclub this year, but it’s a pretty cool thing.”

James had 26 points and 11 assists, Kevin Love scored 28 points, and the Cavaliers got their 50th win along with that Central Division title by beating the New York Knicks 123-109 on Monday night.

The Cavs reached 50 wins for the fourth time in four seasons since James returned from Miami and the 11th time in franchise history. James has won a record 10 straight division titles in Cleveland and Miami.

Cleveland pulled within a half-game of Philadelphia for the No. 3 spot in the Eastern Conference, bouncing back from a loss to the 76ers on Friday to win for the sixth time in seven games.

A division title and 50 wins would have been considered shoo-ins for the Cavs before the season, but after injuries, trades and a leave of absence for coach Tyronn Lue, nothing seemed certain.

“It feels like a number of seasons within the season,” Love said.

J.R. Smith and Jordan Clarkson added 16 points apiece for the Cavaliers, who made 19 3-pointers and won for the ninth straight time at Madison Square Garden.

Meanwhile, James said Monday morning he hadn’t seen the billboard that went up near MSG urging him to play for the Knicks next season, though he was aware of it. Similar billboards had already gone up in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Portland and his home- town of Akron, Ohio.

“Same reaction as I had to every last one of them this year,” he said of the newest entry. “I think it’s very humbling that cities and organizations want me to play for them, especially at this juncture of my career, so that’s it.”Speech

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