The pomp and circumstance surrounding LeBron James’ first home game in his return to Cleveland was enormous, with concerts outside the arena, celebrities in the building and a media horde that rivals a playoff game.
Then James went out and stunk up the joint.
The New York Knicks, who were humiliated at home in their opener against the Chicago Bulls, entered what appeared to be a death trap at Quicken Loans Arena and pulled out a 95-90 victory.
James received a thunderous ovation before the game, but was unable to provide any lightning that would overtake the Knicks, who got strong performances from Carmelo Anthony and their bench.
Looking out of synch and even a bit nervous, James was just 5-for-15 shooting for 17 points with a career-high eight turnovers.
“My shooting is … me, just out of rhythm,” James said. “My turnovers, some of them were careless, some of them were chemistry. I’m throwing passes where some of my teammates were and they were not there. That will come.”
Hopefully soon, for the Cavs’ sake. “We’ve been thinking and excited about this game for a long time. Certainly all day today it was building and building,” said new Cleveland coach David Blatt. “We kind of spiked and dropped off the map early on.”
And yet late, the Cavs made a push and needed a defensive stop, down by three points. But Anthony took James to the left baseline and sank a turnaround jump shot over the game’s best player with 25.9 seconds left, all but sealing the outcome.
“I was right on top of him,” James said.
The buildup bordered on the absurd with the Cavs unveiling the NBA’s current most prominent “Big Three”: James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. James noted emotions were high everywhere.
“I got some great looks. I missed a layup, I missed two open threes. The turnovers kind of got me off rhythm more than anything,” James said. “I turned the ball over twice on two of them on the fast break and I hate turning the ball over.
“It was great, but I’m also glad it’s over.”