Carmelo Anthony and his New York Knicks teammates reversed roles Thursday night.
After a 24-point thrashing at the hands of the Chicago Bulls in the Knicks’ home opener, Anthony and company were plenty happy to be the party crasher for the Cleveland homecoming of LeBron James in a 95-90 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
"We got our party spoiled last night. It’s always good to return the favor," Anthony said.
James and the new-look Cavs lost by much less in their home opener than did the Knicks but it was an off night for the four-time NBA MVP in his debut with new running mates Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving.
Love was all over the boards, grabbing 14 total rebounds and scoring 19 points, while Irving was the Cavs top scorer with 22 points. James added 17 points but was just 5-15 from the field, 1-5 from the line and committed eight turnovers.
From the opposing side, Anthony thinks they’ll get it together.
"It took time in Miami for him and it’s gonna take time here," Anthony said. "He’ll figure it out. I don’t see anything that they can’t figure out, that they won’t figure out."
Amare Stoudemire, who had to learn to play with Anthony when the native New Yorker came back to the Knicks, agreed.
"We’re going through the same thing," Stoudemire said. "We somewhat have a new team, as far as our system, and I’m sure they do as well. It takes time."
Both also recognized the electricity in the air in Cleveland Thursday as fans lined the streets early in the afternoon before the game, then brought the noise inside Quicken Loans Arena on what was a special day for the city.
"It was pretty incredible. I haven’t seen anything like that before," Stoudemire said. "The city was on fire. There was so much traffic driving to the game, so many fans in the streets very excited about LeBron being back."
"You could see the city had a different energy right now," said Anthony. "It was challenging for us to just come in before the game and just really lock in on trying to win this basketball game."
That they sure did. Anthony led that charge and had his signature moment of the night in the waning moments of the game, as he sunk a jumper over James to extend the Knicks’ lead to five with 25 seconds left.
"I was just trying to get one leg, a little bit of space between me and LeBron so I could just see the basket and make sure I get a good look at it," Anthony said.
The chance to make a big shot was one Anthony had to relish, a night after his team wasn’t close to shouting distance come the fourth quarter.
"We could have easily let that game last night come in and linger around guys. We could have been upset about that and it could have carried over to today," Anthony said. "But, as far as getting mentally tough, we showed that we can be that type of team."
It was at the expense of Cleveland’s homecoming soiree for their king once again, James.
"Too bad we came in and spoiled the excitement, but great for us," Stoudemire said.
And maybe the Cavs can now take a note out of the Knicks playbook in going into a hostile environment and spoiling a team’s home opener, as they face the Bulls Friday night in Chicago.