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 spending four years in Miami gripped the city and produced great theater. But it also helped bring out a great performance by the Knicks, as it appeared James left his talents in South Beach.
Looking nothing like the team that trailed the Bulls by 35 points in Wednesday's season-opening loss, the Knicks pulled off a stunning upset and got Derek Fisher his first win as an NBA coach. They erased an 11-point deficit and spoiled James' big night with a 95-90 victory.
"The city is on fire," Amar'e Stoudemire said. "So much traffic driving to the game, so many fans on the streets, they're excited about LeBron being back. But we came in and spoiled the excitement. Great for us."
Carmelo Anthony, who led the Knicks with 25 points, drained a huge pull-up jumper over James with 25.9 seconds left to give the Knicks a 92-87 lead.
J.R. Smith, who hurt his hip early in the game, also hit two crucial buckets in the fourth. His second, a floater in the lane with 48 seconds to go, put the Knicks up five. Smith had 12 points.
Iman Shumpert also had 12 and Quincy Acy was solid with eight points and 10 rebounds. The Knicks had 30 assists on their 37 baskets.
James started out missing nine of his first 10 shots and ended the emotional night 5-for-15 with 17 points and eight turnovers. The Knicks threw multiple players at him, including Travis Wear, and James never got going.
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 result in the coronation that some expected.
"We got our party spoiled [Wednesday night],'' Anthony said. "It's always good to return the favor to somebody else, especially on the road."
The Knicks played inspired basketball on both ends and led by seven late in the third. The Cavaliers took a 70-69 lead when James fed Anderson Varejao for a layup with 10:08 left, but the Knicks answered with an 11-1 run and took an 80-71 lead on Anthony's three-pointer.
The Cavaliers closed to 82-77 on James' transition basket with 4:35 left. Smith hit a jumper on the ensuing trip, and after back-to-back Cleveland turnovers, Anthony's two foul shots put the Knicks up 86-77 with 3:07 to go.
"The way we bounced back was big," Smith said. "We could have easily come in here and paid attention to all the hoopla and whatnot. I'm just glad we didn't and stayed focused for the whole four quarters."
The Knicks fell behind by 11 in the second quarter but responded with a 19-7 run, taking a 42-40 lead on Stoudemire's jump shot with 54.9 seconds left.
"They played with a lot of pride collectively, and that's what you have to do to win in this league," Fisher said. "It's not about the triangle offense. It's not about whether the coaches give you a perfect defensive strategy. It's just about really playing together and trusting each other, and they did it."