LOS ANGELES: Carmelo Anthony scored 25 points as the New York Knicks spoiled the Ohio return of LeBron James with a 95-90 win in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ season opener on Thursday (Friday in Manila).
James’ long anticipated return to his roots didn’t go as hoped as he shot just five-of-15 and committed eight turnovers in his first game back in a Cavaliers’ jersey after winning two NBA titles with the Miami Heat.
But the season is just getting started and James has plenty of time to adjust to his new teammates including Kevin Love, who was acquired in a blockbustre trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
James said the excitement of returning to his hometown got to him.
“I just missed some shots. I was happy when the first half was over and the emotion was less,” he said.
Love finished with 19 points and 14 rebounds in his first action with the Cavaliers, while returning star Kyrie Irving led the way with 22 points and seven assists.
“I thought we came out with energy and we started well,” Cavaliers coach David Blatt said. “We got stagnant without question. We’re good when we move the ball.”
After spending seven seasons in Ohio, the four-time MVP James left his home state for the Heat following the 2009-10 season. He led Miami to four straight championship appearances, winning two, before signing with Cleveland this offseason.
James guided Cleveland to a NBA finals loss and won back-to-back MVP awards. Cleveland has not enjoyed a major US sports title since 1964, but James is hoping to change that and made that part of the platform for his return.
On Thursday, James finished with 17 points, five rebounds and four assists before a raucous crowd of 20,562 at Quicken Loans Arena.
Cleveland has just two wins in eight season openers with James in the lineup.
New York used a 10-1 surge halfway through the final quarter to take a nine-point lead. Anthony capped the run with a three-pointer to give them an 80-71 lead.
With 2:20 to play, Love hit a three pointer from the left side to cut the Knicks lead to five points. Cleveland then forced a penalty and Irving hit a running layup.
On the next possession, Love could have tied it with another shot from beyond the arc. But the ball clanged off the front of the rim. At the other end, J.R. Smith got a floater to fall to give the Knicks some breathing room with 48 seconds to play.
Anthony followed a James layup with a difficult baseline jumper with 26 seconds left, and Irving’s three-point attempt at the other end spun and fell out. Jason Smith secured the rebound, and the game for New York.
Anthony hits clutch shot
Anthony’s 17-foot dagger came at the expense of James who was trying to guard him at the time. New York’s bench also contributed, outscoring Cleveland’s 41-12.
The Knicks re-signed Anthony to a maximum contract this summer with the hope he can lead them into the playoffs. They also added basketball guru Phil Jackson to the front office who brought in new coach Derek Fisher.
Fisher’s head-coaching debut on Wednesday against Chicago was one he would like to forget as the Bulls dominated the Knicks 104-80.