CLEVELAND - Outside of Quicken Loans Arena, the crowd and atmosphere made it feel as if an NBA Finals game was about to be played. Inside, the noise level and raucousness were greater than your average game, but this one started with LeBron James saying, "There's no place like home."
James' homecoming after four seasons in Miami gripped the city and produced great theater. It also helped bring out a great performance by the Knicks on a night when it appeared James left his talents in South Beach.
The Knicks spoiled his big night, pulling off a 95-90 win over the Cavaliers on Thursday night. Looking nothing like the team that trailed the Bulls by 35 points in Wednesday's season-opening loss, they got Derek Fisher his first win as an NBA coach.
Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks -- who had 30 assists on their 37 baskets -- with 25 points, including a pull-up jumper over James with 25.9 seconds left that gave the Knicks a 92-87 lead. J.R. Smith (12 points) hit two huge buckets in the fourth. His second, a floater in the lane with 48 seconds to go, put the Knicks up by five.
Iman Shumpert had 12 points and Quincy Acy was solid with eight points and 10 rebounds.
James missed nine of his first 10 shots and was 5-for-15 with 17 points and eight turnovers.
His first basket was a layup in transition with Anthony grabbing his arm and shoulder in an attempt to wrap him up. James flexed his biceps after the basket, but he didn't have any reason to feel good after that.
Kyrie Irving had 22 points and seven assists and Kevin Love had 19 points and 14 rebounds in his first game as a Cavalier. But the debut of Cleveland's Big Three didn't go the way anyone expected.
The Knicks played inspired basketball on both ends and led by seven late in the third, although the Cavaliers took a 70-69 lead when James fed Anderson Varejao for a layup. The Knicks answered with an 11-1 run and took an 80-71 lead on Anthony's three-pointer.
James' first regular-season game back brought so much excitement and anticipation to downtown Cleveland.
There was a concert outside the arena and a fan fest. About a block away from the arena, fans threw powder into the air in what they called a "LeBron forgiveness ceremony."
Fisher said he hadn't gone outside but couldn't help but see the crowd on his way to the arena. "It's obviously electric here," he said before the game. "But once the game starts, it's five-on-five, so we're not playing against everybody in Northeast Ohio."
Early in the game, the Knicks seemed to be playing against themselves. They started out 6-for-19, missed open looks and went many possessions without running the triangle.
The Knicks trailed by nine in the first quarter and 11 early in the second, but James seemed to be over-amped and out of sync. He had three turnovers in the first quarter.
The Knicks went on a 19-7 run in the second quarter and took a 42-40 lead on Amar'e Stoudemire's jump shot with 54.9 seconds left. James ended the first half 1-for-9 with four turnovers, but the Cavaliers were up 44-42.
It was important for the Knicks to battle back after showing little resilience in Wednesday night's 24-point loss to the Bulls. Smith and Iman Shumpert said the Knicks essentially gave up, but Fisher wasn't overly concerned by that. "Not troublesome,'' he said, "but definitely not a habit that we would want to allow to set in."