It was a beautiful six minutes after an hours-long pre-game party more fit for a championship celebration than a regular season basketball game.
The Cavs showed what they’re capable for a brief few minutes after tipoff, jumping out to a 21-12 lead despite three LeBron James turnovers. It featured a six-minute 20-6 run where they moved the ball to a fault, twice over-passing into turnovers. And then... three quarters of play plagued by just about every sense of lack of cohesion and a superstar perhaps overwhelmed by the moment and the buildup— as Tom Withers pointed out, LeBron hadn't played in nine days, welcomed a new child into the world, and was booked with personal and professional obligations.
Anderson Varejao and newest Cav Kevin Love are tenacious on the boards, as we figured they would be, opening up plentiful fastbreak opportunities. The Cavs starters are so quick and move the ball well enough that even when they don’t get a fastbreak, they can be devastating by simply attacking quickly.
Sadly, neither attacking quickly nor over-passing were in much evidence after those first six to eight minutes.
While the defense is generally perceived as the team’s Achilles heel, that wasn’t so much that case last night. There were moments of startling inattention, but in general the Cavs played with energy on defense, if inconsistently.
Ultimately the Knicks hit some ridiculous hand-in-the-face shots late in the shot clock, including a couple J.R. Smith prayers, compensating for their flat play out-of-the-gate.
The problem mostly was that the Cavs had the foot on the Knicks’ neck in the first quarter and let them back in during the second, as the offense stagnated. When secondary break opportunities disappeared and they stopped creating turnovers, they just didn’t move the ball or get into their offense very effectively.
Game 2 tonight in Chicago against the Bulls, and you better bet for all the home cookin' the Cavs will enjoy this season, they — and LeBron specifically — are probably looking forward to getting out of town for awhile.
LeBron’s Stinker: This was a bad game for LeBron, to put it lightly. The stats are as bad as they looked in person. He was 1 for 9 in the first half. (He was 4 of 6 in the second half.) He had four turnovers in the first and fourth quarter, and was victimized by three questionable foul calls in the fourth quarter. You don’t have to be Frasier Crane, or even a neckbone sports reporter, to suspect the size of the moment may have caused the King to press. While the athleticism was there all night, there were ill-advised passes, indecisiveness and some just plain uncharacteristically bad defense. "It was a special night," said James. "I'm also glad it's over."