Knicks spoil James’ homecoming, 95-90
CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James shot miserably. His passes were errant. He didn’t look good doing much other than tossing powder in the air.
His homecoming was horrendous.
“I didn’t press,” James said, dismissing nerves as a factor. “I didn’t do much.”
James struggled from the start in his first game with Cleveland in four years, and the New York Knicks ruined the megastar’s emotional return home with a 95-90 victory over the Cavaliers on Thursday night.
James, who returned to the Cavs and his native Ohio this summer after winning two NBA titles in Miami, finished with 17 points on 5-of-15 shooting. He also committed eight turnovers and never looked comfortable on a night when the entire city — and a star-studded crowd — celebrated his comeback.
“It was a special night,” he said. “I’m glad it was great, but I’m also glad it’s over.”
Carmelo Anthony scored 25 points and buried a baseline jump shot with James in his face with 25 seconds left to give the Knicks a 92-87 lead.
Kyrie Irving scored 22 and Kevin Love added 19 points and 14 rebounds for the Cavs, who have some work to before they can start thinking about winning any titles.
Iman Shumpert and Jason Smith had 12 points apiece for the Knicks, who were embarrassed at home on Wednesday by Chicago but then returned the favor on a monumental night for Cleveland.
“It was pretty incredible,” New York forward Amare Stoudemire said, describing the atmosphere. “I haven’t seen anything like that before. The city was on fire. It was great to kind of spoil the excitement — great for us.”
James was greeted with a thunderous ovation before the game by more than 20,000 fans, who had been counting down the days until the opener since he announced he was coming back home in a touching essay on July 11. There were thousands more packing the streets outside Quicken Loans Arena as an entire region came together to welcome him.
This was more than a game for Cleveland. It was a homecoming, an event and a city-wide block party rolled into one.
The Knicks wrecked it, giving rookie coach Derek Fisher his first win.
“You’ve got to give them credit,” Irving said. “They made tough shots.”
New York, booed at times by the Madison Square Garden crowd a night earlier, built a seven-point lead in the third quarter and was up 86-77 on Anthony’s bucket with 3:07 remaining.
With James unable to find his shot, Irving kept Cleveland close and his jumper brought the Cavs within 88-85 with 1:43 left. But J.R. Smith hit a jump shot, and after James made a driving layup, Anthony knocked down his baseline jumper with his good friend guarding him to put away the Cavs.
James started poorly, shooting just 1 of 9 from the field in the first half. He also had a miscommunication with Irving, who broke to the basket just as James was firing him a pass and the ball flew into the first row of seats next to film director and super Knicks fan Spike Lee.
“I was throwing passes where I thought some of my teammates were,” said James, who sat out Cleveland’s final preseason game and welcomed a new baby girl last week. “Those things will come.”
The Cavaliers visit Chicago on Friday and the Knicks are at home to Charlotte on Sunday.
In other games Thursday, the Clippers edged the Thunder 93-90, the Mavericks had a 120-102 win over the Jazz, the Wizards beat the Magic 105-98 and the Timberwolves beat the Pistons 97-91.
At Los Angeles, Blake Griffin scored 23 points, making two free throws with five seconds left, and Chris Paul added 22 to help the Clippers beat Oklahoma City in their season opener to usher in a new era under owner Steve Ballmer.
Ballmer paid a record $2 billion to buy the team after 33-year owner Donald Sterling was banned for life by the NBA for racist remarks. The Thunder sent the Clippers packing in the second round of the playoffs last spring, shortly after the Sterling scandal erupted.
Already without injured Kevin Durant, the Thunder lost Russell Westbrook to a hand injury in the second quarter. Perry Jones scored a career-high 32 points, making 9 of 11 free throws.
At Dallas, Dirk Nowitzki scored 21 points and Tyson Chandler, the center and emotional leader when the Mavericks beat Miami for the title three years ago, had 13 points and six rebounds in his first home game since leaving in free agency not long after celebrating the crown.