Knicks vs. Cavaliers: Score and Twitter Reaction from 2014 Regular Season

LeBron James’ return to the Cleveland Cavaliers commenced Thursday evening at Quicken Loans Arena. However, the New York Knicks spoiled it, overcoming a two-point halftime deficit to pull out an impressive 95-90 victory.

ESPN Stats & Info noted the Cavs’ rather poor history in regular-season openers with James on the team, which is somewhat of a silver lining in light of the letdown:

James didn’t shy away from the spotlight ahead of his 2014-15 NBA season debut, per SportsCenter:

But three first-quarter turnovers and eight of nine missed shots in the first half saw James start his second stint in Cleveland on a sour note. It was Kevin Love, a past All-Star in Minnesota, who pulled the most weight for the hosts with 14 points, nine rebounds and three assists before the halftime intermission.

At least the pair combined for a memorable play to give James his first points of the year:

But ESPN’s Dan Le Batard, among many others, was surprised as to how underwhelming James’ performance was:

Bob Finnan of The News-Herald highlighted the brutal numbers James posted:

The incumbent among Cleveland’s tremendous trio, point guard Kyrie Irving, who scored 22 points, had five rebounds and seven assists, tried to galvanize the Cavs’ comeback charge in the final quarter.

Irving got a bucket to snap a field-goal drought that lasted approximately five-and-a-half minutes and then got a steal and dished it to James for a layup, cutting the deficit to 82-77 with 4:33 left.

ESPN’s Jay Williams commented on Irving’s brilliance:

It just wasn’t enough to stop a hot-shooting Knicks team in the end. New York did cough up the ball down the stretch but had already done adequate damage and built a big enough lead to hold on.

After one of those turnovers and a sweet Irving drive to the basket, Love had a chance to tie the score at 88 but missed an open three-pointer. Knicks sixth man extraordinaire J.R. Smith then hit a runner in the lane on the other end.

When James got an easy score to cut it back to a one-possession game, Carmelo Anthony (25 points) hit a shot in James’ eye at the other end to ice it.

Cleveland.com’s Chris Fedor praised Anthony’s clutch baseline jumper:

Daryl Ruiter of CBS Cleveland noted how the officiating began to frustrate fans late in Thursday’s heated battle:

Bleacher Report’s Ethan Skolnick provides quotes from new Cleveland head coach David Blatt and James:

Cleveland’s ineptitude on offense was evident, though. Everyone tried to share the wealth a little too much. That resulted in a lot of sets that lacked cohesion and movement.

The Associated Press’ Tom Withers weighed in:

Thursday wasn’t the smoothest of starts for this new, exciting era for the Cavaliers franchise, but the city of Cleveland was a special place to bear witness to. The talent between James, Irving and Love will meld together soon enough and catapult the Cavs into the NBA’s elite, relieving years of failure since James’ initial departure.

Turner Sports’ Matt Winer brings up a strong point about James’ initial adjustment period with the Miami Heat:

Blatt will be tested right away in getting his squad back on track. Friday is quickly approaching, and the Cavs have a road trip to take on the Chicago Bulls.

In a matchup that features the two teams many are expecting to qualify for the Eastern Conference Finals, it is critical for Cleveland to put forth a strong effort. As long as James plays better, with these opening-game jitters and emotion out of the way, that shouldn’t be a problem.

However, the Knicks did lose by 24 points at home to Chicago in their opener on Wednesday, so it’s on Blatt and James as the Cavs’ emerging leaders to inspire everyone to bounce back.

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College Basketball Stars Facing the Most Pressure for 2014-15 Season

(NOTE: The following story is best read while Queen and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure” plays in the background.)

Less than two weeks from the start of the 2014-15 season, teams all over the country are making the final preparations for the long road ahead. Expectations are high for many, optimistic for all.

Yet for a handful of the country’s top players, there’s additional pressure on their shoulders this season. Beyond just being expected to have a great individual year, these players will be looked at to stand above all others when on the court and possibly carry their teams.

Can they handle the added stress? We’ll find out soon enough, as the first games are set for Nov. 14.

Check our list of the players facing the most pressure in 2014-15.

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Kentucky set to start season with platoon system (Yahoo Sports)

FILE - In this Oct. 16, 2014, file photo, Kentucky head coach John Calipari speaks to reporters during the team's NCAA college basketball media day in Lexington, Ky. The surprising returns of several starters from last year's NCAA runners-up has given Kentucky a 12-deep roster and created expectations of winning the national title. (AP Photo/James Crisp, File)

This year’s Kentucky roster is unusually deep even for a program used to having an abundance of talent. Coach John Calipari has been cautious on projections, noting that his newcomers haven’t played a game and he’s not used to having so many players back for their second and third seasons. Then it becomes, OK, you’ve got to compete at a higher level.” Kentucky’s returnees say they are ready to take that next step. Their decisions make the Wildcats legitimate title contenders, especially with forwards Alex Poythress and Marcus Lee and 7-footer Dakari Johnson also back.


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Warriors whip Kings 95-77 in season opener (Yahoo Sports)

SACRAMENTO, CA - OCTOBER 29: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors shoots a layup against the Sacramento Kings on October 29, 2014 at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, California. (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

The only thing Steve Kerr lost in his coaching debut was his voice. Stephen Curry had 24 points and 10 rebounds, Klay Thompson scored 19 points and the undermanned Golden State Warriors made Kerr a winner in his first game, shaking off a slow start to roll past the Sacramento Kings 95-77 on Wednesday night in the regular-season opener for both teams. ”I got nothing left.” The Warriors overcame the first hurdle of Kerr’s tenure – besides his wavering voice, that is – with a patchwork lineup that did just enough against their rebuilding Northern California rivals. Golden State played without power forward David Lee (strained left hamstring) and reserve Brandon Rush (lower back spasms).


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Predicting Every Major NBA Award Winner for the 2014-15 Season

It’s too early to start thinking about the NBA‘s biggest awards, right? We should let the 2014-15 season breathe a bit before we start sizing up MVPs, ROYs, SMOYs and all the other “OYs” we can dream up…shouldn’t we?

Nnnnnnaaaaah. The early portion of the season affords ample opportunity for rampant speculation. After all, there still hasn’t been enough time for any player or team to separate himself or itself from any other beyond what preseason expectations might dictate.

Once that happens…well, making wild guesses won’t be quite so fun—or as acceptable, for that matter. 

So, before the reality of actual basketball completely disburses the fantasies dreamed up amidst the heat of another scorching summer, let’s take a moment to set some expectations for the Association’s seven most significant awards.

For Rookie of the Year, we’ll try to pick the newbie who’s best equipped to shine right away. For Most Improved, we’ll consider which player will have done the most to up his individual stock by season’s end. Our Sixth Man will (hopefully) be the most productive and impactful bench guy, just as our Defensive Player of the Year will be among defenders.

Typically, Coach and Executive of the Year are party to the league’s biggest turnarounds, though dealing with adversity certainly factors in. As for Most Valuable, that definition tends to be the toughest to nail down, though being the best player in basketball certainly helps.

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WATCH: James Ennis throws down dunk of the season

NBA fans didn’t have to wait long during the 2014-15 season to witness a spectacular dunk. Miami Heat forward James Ennis showed the world there’s still a James that can dunk in South Beach, even with LeBron having departed for Cleveland in the offseason. Ennis received a pass on the wing and took off from just inside the three-point arc in the second half of Wednesday night’s game, and was determined to get to the hoop. Washington Wizards forward Rasual Butler stepped in front of him in an attempt to draw a charge…

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Bulls vs. Knicks: Score and Twitter Reaction from 2014 Regular Season

From an individual perspective, Derrick Rose‘s regular-season return to the NBA was a mixed bag. He looked sloppy and at times self-conscious offensively and made a few mental errors defensively, relying on his teammates to pick up the slack.

Luckily, the Chicago Bulls now have the cavalry to do just that.

Pau Gasol had a double-double (21 points, 11 rebounds), and Taj Gibson led the way with 22 points off the bench as the Bulls ruined the New York Knicks‘ Madison Square Garden opener with a 104-80 win.

Rose, playing a regular-season game for the first time since suffering a torn meniscus last November, had 13 points on 3-of-7 shooting in 21 minutes. Tom Thibodeau kept his minutes to a minimum in the second half when the game got out of hand. The 2011 NBA MVP added five assists and got to the free-throw line eight times, a promising sign heading into the rest of the season.

Still, this was a night where Chicago would have been A-OK without its star player.

Using its treasure trove of bigs to its advantage, the Bulls out-rebounded New York 47-38 and had 10 offensive boards. Gasol, playing in his first game since coming over from the Los Angeles Lakers this summer, was accountable for four second chances. The Spaniard looked right at home on both ends of the floor, oscillating back and forth between the two big positions with ease.

Knicks president Phil Jackson, who coached Gasol with the Lakers and tried to recruit him to New York this summer, said his all-around game will be a boost on both ends in Chicago.

“In my coaching tenure, he made a wonderful difference with that team, liked to play, liked to pass, liked to combine with his teammates and enjoy the game and the city and was a person the fans really took to in Los Angeles. I think he’ll be the same in Chicago,” Jackson told Sam Smith of the Bulls’ official website.

The underrated byproduct of Gasol’s arrival is that it allows Gibson to stay in a sixth-man role, in which he looked overqualified Wednesday night. Active on both ends of the floor, Gibson was the leader of a brilliant bench effort, making 10 of 12 shots and grabbing eight rebounds. Chicago’s second unit was at time reminiscent of the 2011-12 “Bench Mob,” with Gibson providing the rim protection while Doug McDermott and Aaron Brooks controlled the perimeter.

Brooks, the latest in a line of Thibodeau reclamation projects at point guard, had 13 points and six assists off the bench.

McDermott, one of two high-profile Chicago rookies making their debut Wednesday, finished with 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting. The former National Player of the Year already appears to have the respect of NBA defenses, as the Knicks defenders largely stayed at home whenever he was in the game. Nikola Mirotic, the highly touted Spanish import, had five points and appears to be the clear fourth big in the rotation.

The Bulls bench outscored their counterparts, 55-37, as New York’s talented offense struggled to get anything going. Jason Smith had eight points, but microwave scorers J.R. Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr. combined for 13 points on 4-of-18 shooting. Smith has had a particularly frustrating couple of weeks, shooting 33.9 percent during the preseason and struggling to grasp Derek Fisher’s triangle offense.

“Being the type of player I’ve been, it’s a struggle,” Smith told reporters last week. “I’m not going to lie.”

The Knicks as a whole seemed still in the infancy stages of the triangle, an intricate offense popularized during Jackson’s tenures in Los Angeles and Chicago. Possessions were often highlighted by a lot of listless passing, stagnating before leading to a contested mid-range jumper. One of the most prolific three-point shooting teams during the team’s 54-win campaign two years ago, New York shot made only three of its 17 shots from long range.

“We’ve had some conversations with J.R. and a number of our guys,” Fisher said, per Scott Cacciola of The New York Times. “It’s an instinctive game, and our players haven’t gotten to that point yet.”

Carmelo Anthony, who spurned the Bulls this summer to re-sign a five-year deal in New York, had 14 points in his season debut. Anthony, like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant before him, is expected to have relative autonomy to break out of the triangle. At least for one night he appeared unwilling to do so, taking a relatively low number (13) of shots.

Amar’e Stoudemire (12 points, eight rebounds) was the only other Knicks starter in double figures. New York shot 36.5 percent as a team.

The Knicks and Bulls each opened their season without a key starter. Jose Calderon was a surprising scratch with his lingering calf injury, while Jimmy Butler will miss at least the next two weeks with a sprained left thumb, per K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.

The Bulls, as has become a yearly tradition, replaced one of their staples with Kirk Hinrich. Second-year guard Shane Larkin received his first NBA start in place of Calderon. Both turned in nondescript performances, with Larkin finishing with six points and Hinrich 12.

It’s unlikely either player would have made a difference before the despondent MSG crowd. For both teams, opening night seems like a statement on where the respective franchises are in their development. Rose’s return to the floor came and went with a forgettable stat line, and the Bulls’ infrastructure didn’t miss a beat. Anthony didn’t show up and his team got The Reaper.

We’ll have to see if this is a sign of things to come or a case of overreaction theatre. Given we’re a single game into both teams’ seasons, it’s probably a little bit of both.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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Rajon Rondo will play for Celtics in season opener against Nets

BOSTON — It’s official: Rajon Rondo is back. Celtics head coach Brad Stevens announced Wednesday that Rondo will in fact be in the lineup for Boston opens its regular season against the Brooklyn Nets at TD Garden. Rondo will start in his usual point guard spot after missing the entire preseason with a broken hand. Had he not been able to go, rookie Marcus Smart would have gotten the nod. Smart should be the first point guard off the bench for the Celtics, and Evan Turner and Phil Pressey could see time at the position, as well. Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk will round out the starting five against the Nets.Filed under: Boston Celtics, Top Stories, Zack Cox

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6 Teams That Should Monitor Greg Monroe’s 2014-15 Season Very Carefully

Isn’t the 2014-15 season just an audition for Greg Monroe? 

After taking a non-conventional route this past offseason and agreeing to a qualifying offer with the Detroit Pistons, Monroe gets to play out the year and then hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent. It’s a luxury he wouldn’t have enjoyed had he either inked an offer sheet or re-signed with the Pistons during the summer.

Now the past is almost irrelevant, and he’s playing to prove himself to a list of suitors next summera list that might not actually be as large as some might thing. 

Monroe is an intriguing player in the current NBA simply because he doesn’t fit into every organization’s plans. With the league trending toward athletic centers, small ball and non-traditional sets, there aren’t an abundance of opportunities for an old-school big man who would prefer to play with his back to the basket and thrive on his fundamental excellence. 

Nevertheless, there are still some franchises that will be closely monitoring his play throughout the year, attempting to figure out whether he can fit into their future plans. 

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Kevin Ding Grades Kobe Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers Season Debut

Kobe Bryant made his highly anticipated return to the court on Tuesday in the Los Angeles LakersNBA season-opening loss to the Houston Rockets. How did the five-time NBA champion look in his first action of the year?

Kevin Ding joins Stephen Nelson to grade the Black Mamba’s performance in the video above.

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