LeBron James scored 23 points and grabbed five rebounds, but more importantly took over the fourth quarter of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 96-86 win over the New York Knicks on Wednesday.
Frustrated by his play and his tough shooting night, James tore open the sleeves on his jersey in the midst of a four of 11 shooting half.
It was not his first battle with the sleeved look. James openly complained about them in March 2014 when he first wore them with the Miami Heat. This time, however, he took the blame for his tough night.
“I was just frustrated with myself a lot,” he said. “I was just off rhythm a lot. The jersey was the only thing I could go to. I couldn’t do nothing to my face.”
James did not shoot the ball any better in the second half, but he took over the game in the fourth quarter.
Mo Williams scored 22 points, Kevin Love scored 11 and grabbed 12 rebounds and Tristan Thompson had 10 points and 13 rebounds for the Cavs.
Carmelo Anthony scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds and rookie forward Kristaps Porzingis scored 13 points for the Knicks.
James scored 11 points in the fourth quarter, including six straight. His three-pointer with four minutes left – just his second of the season – extended the Cavs’ lead to 87-79. James was one of 16 on three-pointers this year prior to that basket.
At one point in the third quarter, the Cavs were shooting 12 percent on three-pointers and 50 percent from the free-throw line, yet the Knicks’ lead was only six.
“We just don’t understand quite yet how to win collectively as a group,” Knicks coach Derek Fisher said. “Playing from behind on the road after getting off to a good start, we weren’t able to compete.”
The Knicks did not trail until the final minute of the third quarter. The Cavs took their first lead on Matthew Dellavedova’s lob to Thompson to give them a 70-69 lead.
“We didn’t have our fastball tonight,” Cavs coach David Blatt said. “Sometimes you have to win it with the curve or the changeup. We had to fight through some frustration, some good play from the Knicks. We didn’t shoot it well at all. But we did find the pitches, we did find the way to win the game.”
Sleeved jerseys were introduced to the NBA two years ago, but this was the Cavs’ first time wearing them. James grumbled that the shirt was pulling under his arm when he was forced to wear it two years ago, but blamed himself this time and said he would be fine wearing it again if the fans like them.
“It might be mental,” he said. “I was a little frustrated with my shot, couldn’t make a bucket so I had to take it out on something.”