CLEVELAND — The Knicks had a chance in front of a loud crowd and a national television audience to silence the fans and prove they could compete with the NBA champs. But the more things change for the Knicks the more they stay the same.
The veterans team president Phil Jackson brought in didn’t make an impact. Jeff Hornacek’s new fast-paced offense didn’t result in many points. Derrick Rose said he’s not comfortable playing the triangle and lamented a lack of toughness after the Knicks put up little fight and resistance in the second half against LeBron James and the Cavaliers.
On the night the Cavaliers received their championship rings, both teams played like it was a continuation of last season. James had a triple-double and led Cleveland to a 117-88 rout in the opening game of the NBA season.
“We just got our [butts] kicked,” Joakim Noah said.
It’s only one game, but the Knicks trailed by 31 points in the fourth. They looked rusty, frustrated and in need of a few more weeks of training camp.
“Tonight left a bad taste in everybody’s mouth,” Derrick Rose said.
Carmelo Anthony scored 19 points. Rose had 17 in his Knicks’ debut, but he had just one assist. Rose’s lack of familiarity with the triangle is likely because he missed more than two weeks for his civil sexual assault trial in Los Angeles. Kristaps Porzingis added 16 points.
The Knicks’ two big free-agent signings, Noah and Courtney Lee were scoreless in 41 combined minutes. Brandon Jennings shot 1-for-7 and had seven points.
The Knicks were down 48-45 at the half, and were outscored 69-43 after halftime.
“It was a disappointing first game,” Noah said. “I don’t think anybody’s happy. Everybody is disappointed.”
It was the first time all five Knicks starters played together. Rose missed the last five preseason games and Noah was sidelined the first three with a hamstring injury. It showed, as the Knicks weren’t in sync on either end of the floor.
James and Kyrie Irving, on the other hand, looked in Finals’ form. James split the defense for one of numerous thunderous dunks and swatted Lee’s shot from behind. It wasn’t as dramatic or series-changing as James’ rejection on Andre Iguodala in Game 7 of the Finals, but it let the Knicks know this wouldn’t be their night.
He had his usual brilliant all-around game. James finished with 19 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds. He was efficient too, as he shot 9-for-14 from the field.
After James scored on back-to-back dunks in the third quarter, including on in transition, Rose looked frustrated. He said because the Knicks gave up too many easy runs to the rim. The Cavs shot 25-for-40 in the second half.
“We got to put people down,” Rose said. “We got to foul. Not put them down but for sure we have to foul them in the open court to make sure he doesn’t get the crowd into the game. Little things like that we just have to learn.”
Irving, who hit the championship-clinching three-pointer, led everyone with 29 points. He scored 19 in the third when the Cavaliers opened up the game with a 34-19 quarter.
“We were a little unsettled in the things we were doing,” Hornacek said. “Defensively, we’ve got to stop the guy with the ball and be more aggressive.”
Speaking about the defense, Noah said, “Nothing was good.”
It was an all-day and night celebration in Cleveland. An ice sculpture of James’ head sat outside in between Quicken Loans Arena and Progressive Field, where the Indians were hosting Game 1 of the World Series against the Cubs.
The Cavaliers got their rings before the game, and their championship banner was raised to the rafters. Owner Dan Gilbert said the only thing to do now is “Repeat.”
After Jackson turned over the roster and brought in 10 new players, the Knicks believe they assembled a team that could end their three-year playoff drought. They viewed this game as a challenge and a test to show how they stack up against the champs.
The Knicks have a long way to go.
“We have to communicate a lot better,” Rose said. “Thank god this is the first game, but we have a lot of room to improve.”
The King’s Jewels
The 43rd triple-double of LeBron James’ career: