CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Cavaliers celebrated with a confetti party before the game even began. Then Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks spoiled his old friend’s big night.
Anthony scored 25 points, including a big basket over LeBron James in the final minute, and the Knicks spoiled James’ reunion celebration with a 95-90 victory over the revamped Cavaliers on Thursday night.
The Cavaliers fizzled under the spotlight of opening night. James made just 5-of-15 shots from the field and finished with 17 points, five rebounds and eight turnovers. It was the superstar forward’s first game back since announcing July 11 that he was returning to Cleveland after four years in Miami.
“It was a huge night,” James said. “I’m glad it was great, but I’m also glad it’s over. … Now we can play regular basketball.”
The arena had the atmosphere of a conference finals and James resurrected the powder toss he quit doing in Miami. All 20,000 fans in attendance were given confetti to throw along with him, turning Quicken Loans Arena into what looked like a victory parade before the opening tip.
After falling behind early, the Knicks took control in the second half behind red-hot shooting, terrific bench play and a stagnant Cavs offense.
Cleveland cut a nine-point deficit to 88-85 in the final minute, but guard J.R. Smith’s floater with 48 seconds left pushed the Knicks’ lead to 90-85. Anthony followed with a jumper over James to stretch it to 92-87. Smith had 11 points as part of a Knicks bench that outscored the Cavs’ reserves 41-12.
Anthony, the star forward who re-signed with New York in July, made 9 of 17 shots from the floor and acknowledged all of the pregame excitement could have distracted the Knicks.
“I thought we did a great job of kind of embracing the moment, knowing what was happening, knowing all the excitement surrounding Cleveland, LeBron coming back,” Anthony said. “You could see the city has a different energy right now. It was challenging for us before the game to really lock in on trying to win this basketball game.”
The Knicks (1-1) lost by 24 points to the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday, and they quickly fell behind 21-12 in the first quarter against the Cavs. They fought back to take a brief lead late in the second quarter and opened an 84-77 advantage in the fourth while James scuffled.
James was just 1 of 9 from the field in the first half and committed four turnovers after battling turnover issues throughout the preseason.
“I hate turning the ball over,” James said. “It’s a pet peeve of mine and eight definitely is not OK.”
Guard Iman Shumpert scored 12 points and forward Quincy Acy added eight points and 10 rebounds in a rare start for the Knicks, who shot 53.6 percent from the field for the game and looked more comfortable running the triangle than they did Wednesday.
“We got our party spoiled (Wednesday) night,” Anthony said. “It’s always good to return the favor to somebody else, especially on the road. Coming to a hostile environment like this, everybody’s excited, they’re creating something new out here. For us to come in and really lock in and focus in, to kind of steal this game — we’ll take that.”
Forward Kevin Love had 19 points and 14 rebounds in his Cavs debut, and center Anderson Varejao and guard Dion Waiters each scored 10 points.
The night’s festivities belonged to James, who received roaring ovations throughout the night. The city of Cleveland erupted and fans immediately snatched up all of the team’s season tickets the same day James announced his return. Interest in Thursday’s opener pushed ticket prices into the thousands on secondary markets.
NOTES: Knicks PG Jose Calderon is expected to miss the next two to three weeks with a strained right calf. Shane Larkin is starting in his place. … The Knicks started Quincy Acy at power forward. Coach Derek Fisher said part of the reason for that was to see Amar’e Stoudemire at center with the reserves. … Carmelo Anthony is three points shy of 28,000 for his career. … C/F Anderson Varejao and the Cavaliers are nearing agreement on a three-year deal worth about $30 million, a league source told The Sports Xchange. The deal should be announced within a few days. … The Cavs unveiled a new 5,500-square-foot scoreboard that cost more than $9 million. … Coach David Blatt’s family still lives in Israel and did not make the trip for his first NBA game. His family members were watching on TV, he said, even though the tip was at 2 a.m. local time.
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