Anthony wins the upper hand in first NBA clash with James

Nugget scores 14 to foe's 7 as Denver tops Cavs, 93-89

November 06, 2003|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

CLEVELAND - The basketball nation breathlessly waited for Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James to make their entrance onto the big-time stage last night, in their heavily hyped first meeting in the NBA.

And, after the game, James figured there was a way that the contest could have lived up to a visit by the Goodyear blimp and all the attention that came with it.

"If I would have scored 50 and Carmelo would have scored 100," said James, with a sly grin.

That didn't come close to happening. Indeed, for the most part, James, the first player chosen in the June draft, and Anthony, the third overall selection, were largely afterthoughts, in the Denver Nuggets' 93-89 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Save for a flurry of baskets from Anthony in the first quarter, and a rim-rattling dunk from James in the second, neither served particular notice that their pairing will remind fans - casual or intense - that their faceoffs will resemble those of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, the pair the two are most compared to.

"Y'all [the media] said that [about Magic-Bird]," said Anthony after the game. "I'm just agreeing with you. Y'all made that. I don't know where that came from. It's sort of a great thing, because they are two of the greatest players to ever play the game. Hopefully, me and LeBron will be up there some day."

As it was, Anthony, the Baltimore native who led Syracuse to the national championship last spring in his only collegiate season, scored 14 points in the Nuggets' win, which spoiled the Cavaliers' home opener at Gund Arena.

Anthony, who shot 6-for-17 from the field, scored just two points after halftime and had six rebounds. But considering that the 6-foot-9 forward was bouncing back from a two-point performance the night before in Indiana, where he shot just 1-for-13, and his team got the win, Anthony was quite ecstatic with how things turned out last night.

"I just wanted to prove to myself that good players don't have back-to-back bad games like that," said Anthony, who starred at Towson Catholic. "I started inside-out early and I got myself going."

Meanwhile, James, who came straight to the NBA from St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in nearby Akron, had just seven points, and did not score at all after halftime.

"I'm a point guard, so I'm out there just trying to set my teammates up," said the 6-8 James, who had 11 rebounds and seven assists. "When I see it's open for me, I will go. [Last night] and the last two nights, I've been trying to set my teammates up."

The Cavaliers (0-4) shot a paltry 38 percent from the field, while missing 10 of 31 free throws, demonstrating for a national television audience - their first in nearly five years - how they earned the first pick and a crack at James.

Indeed, considering that the two teams combined last year to win 34 games - three fewer than the Washington Wizards did - and that there is only one All-Star, Cleveland center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, between the two rosters, one shouldn't have expected Magic-Larry-style play.

"You have two teams that are not very good right now," said Cleveland coach Paul Silas. "Denver is certainly better than us. It [the hype] has been too much, period, as far as I'm concerned. But that's the nature of the beast. It's going to be here and we're going to have to deal with it."

Anthony and James, whose teams faced each other once in high school, found themselves on each other only twice all night, with nothing of consequence happening on either possession.

"There were a couple of times where we got up under the basket and a couple of times where we got in the post and we really went at it," said James. "I just love to compete. He's a winner and he just loves to compete too. It was kind of fun out there going up against a kind of brother I never had."

Indeed, James seemed more content to rebound and pass, rather than score, while Anthony mostly watched as 5-5 point guard Earl Boykins - a Cleveland native - came off the Denver bench to score 18 points.

Once again, James, who lost in high school to Anthony's Oak Hill (Va.) Academy, fell again to Anthony. This time, however, Anthony, who had been outscored by James in the high school games, won the statistical war as well, outscoring his friend.

"Y'all [the media are] going to make it into a rivalry, but we have to roll with it," said Anthony. "If that's going to make the league better, then let's roll with it."

Rookie matchup

How Denver's Carmelo Anthony and Cleveland's LeBron James stacked up last night in the Nuggets' 93-89 win:

Anthony James

FGM-FGA 6-17 3-11

Points 14 7

Rebounds 6 11

Assists 2 7

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