LeBron James took time to reflect as the Cleveland Cavaliers raised their championship banner.
Then it was business as usual.
James had his 43rd career triple-double, Kyrie Irving scored 29 points and the Cavaliers beat the New York Knicks 117-88 on Tuesday night in the NBA season opener.
James scored 19 points and added 11 rebounds and 14 assists in front of a raucous home crowd that was on its feet from the pregame ceremony until late in the game, celebrating the city’s first championship in 52 years.
“It was great to have a moment like that,” he said. “It was difficult to focus on the game but we did a great job, especially in the second half.”
James, who got choked up while speaking to the crowd before the game, continued his perfect record on ring nights. He was 2-0 when the Miami Heat players were presented with their championship rings.
“There were so many emotions,” he said. “To see us win the finals and tonight being that last exclamation point to receive your ring in front of your fans was a great moment.”
Irving scored 19 points in the third quarter, when Cleveland used a 20-4 run to take a 74-53 lead. Kevin Love scored 23 for the Cavaliers.
Carmelo Anthony led New York with 19 points and Derrick Rose had 17.
Cavaliers guard Iman Shumpert was taken to the locker room late in the third quarter with concussion-like symptoms after colliding with Kristaps Porzingis. Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said Shumpert was undergoing tests to determine the extent of the injury.
Cleveland’s players, coaching staff and front office personnel also received their championship rings in the pregame ceremony, and the sellout crowd chanted Lue’s last name.
“That was a really good feeling,” he said. “It was great to be a part of it.”
The basketball game was only part of a big night in town. The Cleveland Indians played Game 1 of the World Series against the Chicago Cubs across the street at Progressive Field.
The Knicks, who missed the playoffs the last three seasons, are expecting major improvement after acquiring Rose from Chicago to run the offense and signing center Joakim Noah, who was scoreless in 21 minutes.
“We will improve, I guarantee it,” Anthony said. “There are just so many moving parts right now. We need to get better, but we’re not running from that fact.”
New York, playing its first game under new coach Jeff Hornacek, trailed by 13 in the second quarter but rallied to cut the lead to 45-43 at halftime. A pair of dunks by James and 3-pointers from Irving and Love pushed the lead to 61-49.
Cleveland’s spurt continued as Irving hit three 3-pointers for a 74-53 lead.
Porzingis scored 16 points for New York.
Knicks: Anthony scored 11 of New York’s 18 first-quarter points. …. PG Brandon Jennings, signed in the offseason, scored seven points in 22 minutes.
Cavaliers: F Tristan Thompson was scoreless and had six rebounds in 21 minutes. … Rookie G Kay Felder is going through concussion protocol after being injured in practice last week.
James and Dwyane Wade, a Chicago native, finalized their bet on the World Series between the Indians and Cubs.
“If the Indians win the World Series, he has to wear an Indians uniform when he comes here and if the Cubs win it, I have wear a Cubs uniform when we play in the United Center,” James said.
James said he and most of the Cavaliers planned to attend Game 2 on Wednesday night.
NOT THIS TIME
The Knicks spoiled James’ return to Cleveland on opening night two years ago with a 95-90 win. Anthony was the game’s high scorer with 25 points. Irving led Cleveland with 22 while James scored 17.
MAKING FRIENDS, SORT OF
Noah, who has never been a favorite of Quicken Loans Arena fans, had a few kind words for the city Tuesday.
“Congratulations to Cleveland,” he said. “Even though it’s not a vacation spot you guys got a championship. It’s well-deserved.”
Knicks: They host Memphis on Saturday in their home opener in what will mark Rose’s first game in a New York uniform at Madison Square Garden.
Cavaliers: They travel to Toronto on Friday in a rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference finals, which Cleveland won in six games.
SOURCE: The Associated Press