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. 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 favour on a monumental night for Cleveland.
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.
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 JR 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.