CLEVELAND -- The kid from the local high school stole the
show -- and all LeBron James could do was watch.
Tiny Earl Boykins, who grew up in Cleveland, scored all 18 of
his points in the second half as the Denver Nuggets ruined James'
hyped home debut Wednesday night, 93-89 over the winless Cavaliers.
Oh, and the James vs. Carmelo Anthony rivalry? Let's just say it
needs some work. Maybe it's a good thing they'll play just once
more this season.
"I'm glad it's over. I don't got to hear about the matchup with
me and LeBron until next month," said Anthony, who will next meet
James on Dec. 3 in Denver.
Anthony outscored James 14-7 in the eagerly awaited matchup
between the NBA's two star rookies. But neither was able to get
into the flow and disappointed a sellout crowd of 20,562, which
kept waiting for one of them to take over.
Instead, it was the 5-foot-5 Boykins who made all the big shots
The former Cavs guard, who signed a $13.7 million, five-year
deal with Denver as a free agent during the offseason, scored 10
points in the third quarter to help the Nuggets take control.
After the score was tied at 55-all, Denver got a pair of
3-pointers from Jon Barry and two from Boykins while outscoring
Cleveland 22-9 to close the period.
Boykins added eight more points in the fourth as the Nuggets,
who tied Cleveland for the NBA worst record (17-65) a year ago,
held off a late Cavaliers' comeback.
Another former Cleveland guard, Andre Miller, made two free
throws in the final 23 seconds to seal Denver's third win of the
James and the Cavaliers are still looking for win No. 1, and the
top overall draft pick is now 0-3 in his career against his close
James had the better stat sheet: 11 rebounds and seven assists
to Anthony's six and two.
But James couldn't get his game going and went scoreless in the
second half, and finished just 3-for-11 from the field. Anthony,
coming off a 1-for-13 night in a loss at Indiana, was 6-for-17.
More than 300 credentials were issued to see the first pro
matchup between James and Anthony, the two most publicized rookies
to enter the league at the same time since Larry Bird and Magic
Johnson in 1979.
"This is overwhelming," said Cavaliers coach Paul Silas, who
feels the early comparisons of a James vs. Anthony rivalry to Magic
vs. Bird are premature. "But that's the way it is."
Before the game, the Goodyear blimp -- from James' hometown of
Akron -- hovered overhead as the normally quiet streets outside Gund
Arena buzzed with traffic, fans and scalpers seeking $300 for a
lower level seat to James' home opener.
Nike CEO Phil Knight, Reds outfielder Ken Griffey Jr., rapper
Jay-Z and suspended Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett were
among the celebrities on hand.
James, who used to attend Cavs' games while he was in high
school, was asked if he ever imagined the Gund being on center
"No," he said. "But I knew after I got drafted that it was
time to party."
But for much of the first half the only celebrating Cleveland
fans did came during a splashy pregame ceremony as the Nuggets
opened an 11-point lead before the Cavs trimmed it to 46-44 at
Cleveland, Miami and the Los Angeles Clippers are the
league's only winless teams. ... James knows that his NBA career
will never be simply about what he does on the floor. "Never
happen," he said, surrounded by the usual media horde, which has
chronicled his every move as a pro. "I'm all right with it. Ain't
no way it'll be just about basketball. It's what I do every
night." ... Cavs F Ira Newble, who has missed four games with knee
tendinitis, will come off the injured list before Saturday's game
against Washington. ... James and Anthony have never played on the
same team. How would that be? "The NBA doesn't want to see us
together," James said with a smile. "That would be trouble."