The Cleveland Cavaliers beat the New York Knicks tonight in the NBA’s first game of the 2016-17 season.
With the Cleveland Indians playing Game 1 of the World Series only blocks away, the Cavs unveiling their championship banner and sightings of WWE legend The Undertaker taking photos in the arena per the WWE website, the atmosphere in Cleveland’s Quicken Loans arena was as festive as possible before tip-off.
Both teams enter this season with multiple story lines.
The Knicks added veterans Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose, Brandon Jennings, and Courtney Lee this summer to pair with the Knicks’ existing core of Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis. Adding veterans is an attempt for the Knicks to win now and reverse the misfortune experienced by all involved with the Carmelo Anthony era in New York.
As is the story with any returning champion, the main story line surrounding Cleveland this season will be the quest to defend their title. NBA fans can also look forward to LeBron James adding statistics and accolades to his name this season as he continues to make the case for the best NBA player of all time.
The Cavs were able to transfer the pregame energy from Quicken Loans Arena into a hot start and a 28-18 first quarter lead. Quick, crisp passes and drives from James and Irving led to the Cavs’ early lead, with 21 of their 28 first quarter points coming from James, Irving, and Kevin Love per the NBA website. Like so many quarters in years past, the Knicks defense was confused and their offense was stagnant. Anthony scored 11 of the Knicks 18 first quarter points according to the NBA website, with little offensive movement or help from his teammates.
In the second quarter, the Knicks were able to find a flow offensively, using a faster, less stagnant pace. New York utilized more balanced scoring to close the gap on Cleveland, getting 10 points from newcomer Derrick Rose.
Rose looked explosive in his first action with the Knicks, showing agility and quickness in getting past defenders while also elevating for finishes at the rim. Rose did have a turnover problem this game and missed badly on shots that he usually makes, problems that should be solved as the young season goes on and Rose gets more acclimated with the pace of NBA action. Rose played in only one preseason game for the Knicks, missing most games to attend his civil rape trial.
Only up two points at the beginning of the third quarter, the Cavs were able to quickly increase their lead thanks to turnovers from the Knicks, two thunderous dunks by James, and a dazzling display of shot-making from Irving who poured in 19 points in the third quarter.
With James having over 13 years of NBA games on his joints and tendons, Irving may be asked to be the go-to scorer for the Cavs during the regular season. James may potentially take a step back to Irving, play-making rather than being the dominant scorer he is usually asked to be, in effort to stay fresh for another deep finals run.
The lead Cleveland built in the third quarter was sustained and added to in the fourth quarter as the Cavs bench outscored the Knicks bench en route to a 117-88 opening night victory.
LeBron James finished with 19 points, 11 rebounds, and 14 assists for his first-ever opening night triple-double, according to the NBA website. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love added 29 points and 23 points respectively. Look for the Cavs to ride the combination of James, Irving, and Love all the way to the NBA Finals again this season.
The Knicks scoring was led by Anthony with 19 points, while Rose added 17 and Porzingis chipped in 16.
While it is clear the Knicks are a work in progress, there was a bright spot in their opening night loss. Rose is very obviously still explosive enough to make the Knicks a much faster team. If Rose can stay healthy and continue to push the pace while penetrating opposing defenses, space will be opened up for Anthony, Porzingis, and the rest of the Knicks to operate within.
The Cavaliers’ next game is at the Toronto Raptors Friday, while the Knicks play the Memphis Grizzlies at home Saturday.
[Featured Image by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images]