If anyone expected to see something different from the New York Knicks as they tried to crash the party of the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James receiving their championship rings, they were in for a disappointment.
The Cavs had no problem removing the opening night threat with a dominant 117-88 win, led by 29 points from Kyrie Irving, 23 from Kevin Love and a triple double from James, who scored 19 to go along with his 11 rebounds and 14 assists. While it’s always reckless to assume too many things just by one regular season game and especially the opening one, it won’t be too far from the truth to say the Cavs and especially James feel very little pressure heading into this season, which might make them even better than before.
It shouldn’t be surprising the Knicks struggled so much, and the Cavaliers made things look so effortless, finishing with 31 assists on 45 field goals, and pretty much blowing the game away early in the third quarter. This is the same team running together for two seasons, with some minor adjustments here and there. Tristan Thompson didn’t score a single point, but he also took just one shot. The Cavaliers didn’t need him too. They had plenty of time to use their better shooting lineups, giving Channing Frye, Richard Jefferson and even Mike Dunleavy in his debut for the team some time to stretch their legs. Dunleavy scored 4 points, the talented Jordan McRae didn’t take advantage of the garbage time, scoring 2 points in 6 minutes.
Meanwhile, the Knicks have three new starters and a new head coach. Joakim Noah and Courtney Lee both finished with 0 points. As a team the Knicks shot 36.8% from the field and turned the ball over 18 times. The hype of Brandon Jennings didn’t translate into anything, as he scored just 7 points on 1-for-7 from the field, and there was nothing coming from the bench to help the Knicks stop the slide in the second half, and it’ll take time to find someone who does.
Meanwhile, the more recognizable faces weren’t bad, but the Knicks simply didn’t look like a team, in the sense that every man for himself. Carmelo Anthony wasn’t bad with 19 points. Derrick Rose wasn’t bad with 17 points and a whole lot of rust. Kristaps Porzingis wasn’t bad with 16 points and 7 rebounds. But triangle offense or whatever it is the Knicks are running, for now it looks like a bunch of guys trying to fend for themselves, and it’ll be a while before we see something a little more cohesive.
The Cavaliers are leading a sports renaissance in Cleveland, which for now is only affecting the Indians. Perhaps the Browns are too far down the rabbit hole, beyond saving by anyone and anything. More than anything in their NBA opener win, the Cavaliers looked like they’re having fun. Maybe it was the rings and banners, maybe it was the pressure coming off. Whatever it was, it made them look great, helping emphasize how far the Knicks are from coming even close to challenging for the NBA title.