CLEVELAND (AP)—LeBron James took his game outside, and he wasn’t cold at all.
The one rap on James was that the rookie couldn’t shoot from the perimeter, but the 6-foot-8 point guard showed nice range in draining seven outside shots, including all three of his 3-point attempts.
“Every day in practice I go into the gym and I hear those voices that say I can’t shoot,” said James, who came in just 2-for-12 on 3-pointers. “I just keep working at it. I know they’re going to fall for me, and tonight they did.”
James didn’t attempt his first shot that wasn’t a jumper until he missed a finger roll from 4 feet with 3:09 remaining.
Since training camp opened, James has spent extra time working on a flawed outside shot that looks better with nearly every attempt. He’s no longer fading backward, a bad habit he developed in high school, and his shot has gotten softer.
“This didn’t happen by chance,” Cavs coach Paul Silas said. “We’ve worked on it, and he’s willing to put the time in. “
James swished his first four jumpers—two 3-pointers—as the Cavaliers bolted to a 13-0 lead before building a 22-point lead in the first half.
Ricky Davis added 16 points, seven rebounds and eight assists in just three quarters for the Cavaliers, who have won two straight following an 0-5 start.
“Everybody is so focused right now, it’s like I’m back in high school,” James said. “Everybody is getting the shots they want and they’re falling for us.”
Knicks coach Don Chaney was upset with his team’s defensive effort.
“We played scared,” he said. “We respected their speed too much and we didn’t get into guarding guys. We played afraid and I don’t know why.”
Houston, averaging 31 points in his last four games, scored the Knicks’ final seven points as New York closed the third quarter with a 17-7 run to pull to 74-65.
But after missing nine straight shots, the Cavaliers finally found their stroke as James hit three more jumpers, the final one a 3-pointer from the right wing to cap an 11-2 run that put the Knicks away.
“This was just horrible, one of the worst,” Houston said. “You should never come out and go through the motions, and that’s what we did.”
From the moment James hit his first jumper—a 17-footer—it was the Cavaliers’ night.
Cleveland scored 13 straight to open the game as the Knicks missed their first six shots from the floor. After a monstrous slam dunk by Davis made it 11-0, the Knicks called a timeout and James walked to the middle of the floor flexing his muscles and screaming, “Let’s go!” to the crowd.
On the Knicks’ bench, Chaney was yelling at his players, who didn’t get out quickly enough to contest wide-open looks for James.
“I think LeBron will be a great shooter, but I think I could make a couple of shots if nobody is in my face,” Chaney said. “To me, that’s what happened tonight, we had nobody in anybody’s face.”
The Cavaliers shot 68 percent in the opening period to take a 32-20 lead.
Silas rested his starters for much of the second quarter, but the Cavs, who have four games this week, were still able to push their lead to 22 before theKnicks cut it to 17 at halftime.
In his last three games, Davis is averaging 17 points, 9.3 rebounds and 7.3 assists. … Before the game, Silas was asked what the media attention would have been like if James had wound up in New York instead of Cleveland. “Double. I know New York,” said Silas, an assistant coach with the Knicks from 1989-92. “But he would have handled it. He has a way of saying the right thing at the right time.” … The Cavaliers, who have lost 25 straight road games, are at Miami on Wednesday night. Cleveland’s last win away from GundArena was on Jan. 12 last season at Seattle.