Instead of LeBron James and his new big three celebrating the beginning of a brand new successful era, the New York Knicks spoiled their party with a big night for Carmelo Anthony, leading his team to a 95-90 win, enjoying the confusion among the ranks of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
So David Blatt begins his NBA career on the sidelines with a loss. LeBron James’ homecoming part is spoiled due to a lot of mistakes by him on both ends of the floor. The Cavaliers offense might be exploding with talent, but it’s also disjointed and not exactly up to speed about what each player does and where he stands. James turned the ball over eight times, most of those coming from passes that ended up in the wrong hands or out of bounds. The Cavaliers were better when he wasn’t playing, as he finished with 17 points on 5-of-15 from the field, and it wasn’t because the Knicks played exceptional defense.
The New York Knicks weren’t that good, but they knew what they were doing. The ball goes to Carmelo Anthony, the triangle looked a bit better against a team that’s not the Chicago Bulls, or maybe simply because the Cavaliers aren’t where they should be defensively as well. Anthony scored 25 points and added six assists, hitting the most important shot of the game, a corner jumper over the outstretching arm of James.
The Cavaliers found it difficult to get open shots from close range, but they had plenty of good looks from beyond the arc. They simply didn’t follow through at the needed rate, hitting 37.5% of their shots. That’s not bad at all, but when you’re taking 24 shots and turning the ball over on more than a quarter of your possessions, hitting just nine tres isn’t enough. Kevin Love and Matthew Dellavedova didn’t do too badly but Kyrie Irving was just 1-for-76 and LeBron James missed four of his five long range shots.
Irving led the Cavs with 22 points, followed by Kevin Love with 19. But the bench hardly contributed: Just 12 points between four players, with Tristan Thompson and the Australian point guard making up for Marion and Mike Miller (only 3 minutes) not scoring. The Cavs forced turnovers as well (15) but struggled creating a fluid fast break option and transition attack, finishing with only 34 points in the paint, showing it wasn’t easy for them finding baskets.
The Knicks are also work in progress. While it looked terrible in the home opener (losing by 24 to the Bulls), things looked a bit better this time, although the lineups keep changing. Iman Shumpert found his stroke and scored 12 points and J.R. Smith had a very good game from the bench, shooting 5-of-10 for 11 points and adding 7 assists. Jason Smith, one of the two backup centers along with Cole Aldrich, also finished in double figures with 12 points. It’s quite clear the Knicks don’t have a clue about how their rotation is going to look like, doing quite a lot of experimenting for now.
The Cavaliers are less about experimenting and more about making the most of what they know they have. James isn’t in a problem when it comes to rebounding anymore with Kevin Love and Varejao playing next to him, but it’s going to take time before the hierarchy and authority is made clear. It might come through some growing pains, and maybe at some point should hit a moment of panic. But talent, good players and personalities shine eventually, and one bad bump in the road at the start shouldn’t stop them from eventually looking a lot better.