The celebrated rookie shot just 3-for-12 and scored eight points with six assists in Cleveland’s 104-85 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.
“Tonight was just one of those nights when nothing was really falling for me,” said James, who had scored more than 20 points in each of his first two starts. “So you’ve just got to tough it out.”
At the start of the game, the Blazers put 5-foot-10 point guard Damon Stoudamire on the 6-8, 240-pound James, the NBA’s top draft pick. Stoudamire pestered James, who had just two points and three assists in the first half.
In the season-opener Wednesday against Sacramento, James scored 12 points in the first quarter and finished with 25. The following night in Phoenix, he had 21 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists.
“LeBron just wasn’t LeBron tonight. It just wasn’t there,” Cleveland coach Paul Silas said. “He was a little fatigued. I think three games in four nights is a little tough on anybody.”
Confident even after his first tough outing in the NBA, LeBron was asked whether he anticipated some off-nights: “I don’t expect it,” he said.
James remains the team’s top scorer, averaging 18 points and 7.3 rebounds.
“He probably didn’t have his greatest game against us, which is very fortunate, but you can see he has an overall knowledge of the game,” Blazers coach Maurice Cheeks said.
The Blazers, who lost their season opener at Utah, seized the lead midway through the first half and were ahead the rest of the way.
Cleveland went ahead 15-6 on a layup by Davis, but the Blazers chipped away, taking a 25-23 lead on McInnis’ jumper early in the second quarter. Rasheed Wallace and Qyntel Woods added unanswered 3-pointers to make it 31-23 Portland.
The Blazers led 54-39 at the break and added to their advantage when Stoudamire opened the second half with a 3-pointer. Portland extended its lead to 90-69 midway through the fourth quarter on a 3-pointer by Qyntel Woods.
James’ subpar effort didn’t stop the crowd from cheering the 18-year-old star. Flashbulbs twinkled throughout the Rose Garden each time he threatened to score.
“He didn’t score like he probably wanted to, but he played pretty good. Damon really got in on him,” Blazers guard Bonzi Wells said. “As point guard, Damon causes a lot of havoc on guards because he’s so quick and he can steal.”
Long before the game, a large group of children gathered at courtside hoping for James’ autograph. “Mr. James! Mr. James!” they shouted.
“It’s crazy,” James said about the attention, “but it’s a dream come true for me.”
Cleveland’s home opener is Wednesday against Denver, a showdown between James and Nuggets rookie Carmelo Anthony.
The Blazers have won their last five meetings with the Cavaliers.
Blazers guard Derek Anderson did not play because of a sore back. Anderson missed the opener and six preseason games because of back spasms. … The Blazers on Friday exercised their option on Randolph, extending his contract through the 2004-05 season. … The Cavaliers have won just 13 of 47 games in Portland. … It was Maurice Cheeks’ 100th victory as coach of theTrail Blazers.