Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) passes around New York...

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) passes around New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) in the first half of an NBA game in New York, Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014. Credit: AP / Kathy Willens

Friends don't like seeing friends lose in the NBA. Just ask LeBron James.

The Cavaliers star said on Thursday that he feels bad for good friend Carmelo Anthony because of the Knicks' rough start. Not bad enough to give him an inch with the game on the line, though.

"I always feel for a friend of mine that goes through losing," James said before his team's 90-87 victory over the Knicks at the Garden. "You never want to see a friend of yours lose."

With the Knicks down three in the final seconds, Anthony had the ball, but James stayed with him and his three-point attempt missed. That left Anthony with nine points, 10 rebounds and 4-for-19 shooting as the Knicks fell to 4-16.

Of course, James has his own issues with which to deal. His return to Cleveland after playing in Miami for four seasons has been anything but smooth, as evidenced by his play on Thursday night.

James missed eight of his first 10 field-goal attempts and had four turnovers entering the fourth quarter. But he hit his first three shots in the fourth, including a three-pointer and an open-court dunk, en route to the Cavs' fifth straight win.

James wound up with 19 points and 12 assists and shot 7-for-17 for the Cavaliers (10-7).

James said he felt "out of rhythm" throughout the game and admittedly was "passive" at times. So with Kyrie Irving (37 points) seemingly scoring at will, James said he decided to be more of a facilitator on offense. He said he took over as point guard for much of the game.

"Every game presents its own challenges," James said. "You read the game and react to it."

He's trying to do the same thing with his new teammates and coach. But getting used to playing alongside Irving and Kevin Love in first-year coach David Blatt's system has been a struggle at times.

James is not worried, saying what the Cavs are going through is no different from the getting-used-to-you phase that James experienced with Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and coach Erik Spoelstra during their first month together in Miami.

"And we went to four NBA Finals and we won two championships," James said, "so I'd say that worked out well."

But while James is confident about what lies ahead, the road looks rockier -- at least in the short term -- for Anthony and the Knicks. James acknowledged that his good friend since high school is on his mind.

"I have so much for me to figure out on this side, it's hard for me to just think about what he's going through, even though I see it," James said. "You know I want him to win. Obviously, I don't want him to win against us."