LeBron vs. Carmelo doesn#039;t live up to hype

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 6, 2003

CLEVELAND - Carmelo 1, LeBron 0. Hype, ridiculous.

After months of buildup, the matchup between rookies Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James turned out to be nothing more than a run-of-the-mill game between two of the NBA's worst teams.

Expecting a little more, huh?

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Well, this rivalry isn't quite ready for prime time.

Denver's tiny point guard Earl Boykins, a local kid just like James, scored all 18 of his points in the second half to help the Nuggets ruin James' first regular-season game at Gund Arena with a 93-89 win Wednesday night over the winless Cavaliers.

''Earl stole the show,'' Nuggets guard Jon Barry said. ''He stole the LeBron and Carmelo show.''

James couldn't argue with Barry's appraisal.

''I think he played great,'' James said.

While the 5-foot-5 Boykins was indeed sensational, he wasn't the one that a national TV audience, more than 20,000 fans, A-list celebrities including Nike CEO Phil Knight, Ken Griffey Jr., and rapper Jay-Z came to see.

Anthony and James were the main draw, but the two teenage stars of the future didn't deliver anything special.

James was asked if there was any way the game could have lived up to its advanced billing.

''Yeah,'' he said. ''If I had scored 50 (points) and Carmelo had scored 100.''

James had just seven on 3-of-11 shooting, but the No. 1 overall draft pick didn't score after halftime. He added 11 rebounds and seven assists in 41 minutes.

Anthony bounced back from a 1-of-13 outing the night before in Indiana with 14 points - just two after halftime - on 6-of-17 shooting with six rebounds and two assists in 39 minutes.

But for Anthony, only one thing mattered: ''I won, so I'm happy with my performance.''

Boykins, who has twice played for the Cavaliers, scored 10 points in the third quarter to help the Nuggets take control.

After the score was tied at 55-all, Denver got a pair of 3-pointers from Jon Barry and two from Boykins while outscoring Cleveland 22-9 to close the period.

Boykins then added eight more points in the fourth as the Nuggets, who tied Cleveland for the NBA's worst record (17-65) last season, held off a late Cavaliers' comeback.

Following the game, Boykins turned around in the locker room and saw a group of reporters waiting for him.

''Uh, guys. Carmelo dresses over there,'' he said. ''You guys came to see a show. I came here to win a game. You always want to play good when you come home. I just came to play.''

Yet another former Cleveland point guard, Andre Miller, made two free throws in the final 23 seconds to seal Denver's third win of the young season.

James and the Cavaliers are still looking for win No. 1, and the former high school superstar is 0-3 in his career against close friend Anthony. They faced each other twice while in high school.

''I don't want to say I'm disappointed,'' James said. ''We need to get a win - simple as that.''

It seems as if James is the only one with realistic expectations about the young Cavaliers.

''I knew there was going to be some bumps and bruises,'' James said. ''Being the No. 1 pick, I went to the sorriest team from the year before. By December and January, we'll be a good team.''

More than 300 credentials were issued to see the first pro matchup between James and Anthony, the two most publicized rookies to enter the league at the same time since Larry Bird and Magic Johnson in 1979.

''This is overwhelming,'' said Cavaliers coach Paul Silas, who believes the early comparisons of a James vs. Anthony rivalry to Magic vs. Bird are premature. ''But that's the way it is.''

Before the game, the Goodyear blimp - from James' hometown of Akron - hovered overhead as the normally quiet streets outside Gund Arena buzzed with traffic, fans and scalpers seeking $300 for a lower-level seat.

James, who used to attend Cavs' games while he was in high school, was asked if he ever imagined the Gund being on center stage.

''No,'' he said. ''But I knew after I got drafted that it was time to party.''

Cleveland fans are still waiting for it to get started.

Notes: Cleveland, Miami and the Los Angeles Clippers remain the league's only teams without a win. … The Cavs unveiled their new mascot, a furry critter named Moondog, who in keeping with Cleveland's off night, bounded off a trampoline and missed his first dunk. … James and Anthony have never played on the same team. How would that be? ''The NBA doesn't want to see us together,'' James said with a smile. ''That would be trouble. Real trouble.''