They call them champs, and Cavs show why

Sam Amico

CLEVELAND -- It was a night for handshakes and hugs, plenty of high fives and the fighting back of some serious tears.

And that was just LeBron James before the game.

As for the fans, they couldn't have been more appreciative. A championship. In Cleveland. This is their town, and the Cavaliers are their team. This team, in particular, will live on forever.

After the banner was raised and the rings were delivered, there was a game. Call it the start of a title defense. Call it the season opener of dreams.

And call it Cavs 117, the poor New York Knicks 88 on Tuesday at a rockin', rollin' and roarin' Quicken Loans Arena.

For starters, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue couldn't have asked for more.

"Overall, I thought we played hard," he said. "Offensively, we were great. We had 31 assists, and we didn't really make shots in the first half."

This game was part early jitters, part early highlight reel (think Kyrie Irving's fast-break alley-oop to James in the second quarter) and 100 percent pure emotion.

It was Irving putting on a one-man basketball clinic in the third quarter, finishing with a game-high 29 points. A few were the type of buckets that had the Knicks looking pretty silly.

It was James messing around and getting a triple-double: 19 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds. Yes, 14 assists -- or two short of his career-best. How's that for an opening act?

There's more.

Kevin Love went for 23 points and 12 boards of his own, so it appears the Cavs' Big Three is doing just fine, thank you for asking.

Along with all that, J.R. Smith spent a big portion of the night diving, defending and just generally playing like a winner.

Richard Jefferson (13 points), Tristan Thompson, Mike Dunleavy and Channing Frye … all contributed.

In the end, it was a convincing win. It was a display of the right way to play. But frankly, this game was mostly about what happened at the beginning.

For the first time in 52 years, a Cleveland team raised a banner.

It was an event that won't just be cherished by Cavaliers fans. It will be cherished by the Cavaliers themselves.

For instance, Lue said he will forever remember hearing the crowd chant his name during the ring ceremony.

"It was a great feeling out there, seeing all the fans, knowing you had something to do with bringing them a championship," he said.

Added Smith, "It was emotional; a couple tears dropped."

The Cavs built a 48-45 halftime lead, mostly behind the play of James and Love.

This despite the fact they were The Team That Couldn't Shoot Straight (4-of-21 on threes) for the first two quarters.

"We knock a couple of those down, we might get 140," James said.

The Cavs expanded it to 82-64 at the end of third, thanks to a couple of massive LeBron dunks and lots of nifty baskets from Irving.

After that, it was basically Ron Baker time -- as the Knicks cleared the bench, and even their undrafted rookie got to play.

Carmelo Anthony scored 19 points to pace New York, and Derrick Rose had 17 in his first game as a Knick.

"I thought our guys really controlled their emotions," Lue said.

"We executed well. If we can continue to play like that and get better defensively, we'll be looking pretty good."


Cavs guard Iman Shumpert left in the third quarter with concussion-like symptoms. Shumpert hit his head while crashing into Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis. "Right now, he's gonna get tested and see where he's at," Lue said. …The Cavs will take the day off Wednesday, then return to practice Thursday. They travel to Toronto on Friday. … Lue on the suggestion that he maybe tried to sneak a look at the Indians' World Series score during the Cavs game: "I didn't sneak a look. I just looked." ... The Cavs let fans stay after the game to finishing watching the Indians' win on the Humogotron.