James impressive in his pro debut

Believe the hype

Posted: Thursday, October 30, 2003

SACRAMENTO, Calif. LeBrilliant except for the result.

LeBron James more than lived up to his hype in the first regular-season game of his NBA career, playing like no other 18-year-old ever had in his professional debut as the Cleveland Cavaliers lost 106-92 Wednesday night to the Sacramento Kings.

James had 25 points, nine assists, six rebounds and four steals, mesmerizing one of the league's loudest crowds with skills no teenager had ever displayed at this level.

James' point total was by far the most by any prep-to-pro rookie since Kobe Bryant made the jump in 1996, eclipsing the 10 points scored by both Jonathan Bender of Indiana in his 1999 debut and Amare Stoudemire of Phoenix last year.

In fact, James' 25 eclipsed the combined totals of Bryant (no points), Jermaine O'Neal (two), Kwame Brown (two), Eddy Curry (two), Tyson Chandler (one), Kevin Garnett (eight) and Tracy McGrady (none) in their professional debuts.

James led the Cavaliers back from an early 19-point deficit, giving Cleveland its first lead by feeding J.R. Bremer for a 3-pointer that made it 85-83 with 10:05 left in the fourth.

Sacramento regained control with a 6-0 run, and the Cavaliers never made a game of it down the stretch. James capped his night by shooting an airball from 3-point range just before the final buzzer, drawing taunts from the fans.

Those taunts, however, were only half-hearted. James entertained the fans too much to be treated too shabbily.

Timberwolves 95, Bucks 89

MINNEAPOLIS Kevin Garnett had 25 points, 21 rebounds and six assists as the Minnesota Timberwolves hung on to beat the Milwaukee Bucks in the season opener for two teams sporting a much different look.

Newcomers Sam Cassell (18 points), Latrell Sprewell (15 points) and Michael Olowokandi (11 points, nine rebounds) helped out Garnett, as did holdover reserve Gary Trent (14 points).

Michael Redd and Desmond Mason each had 16 points for Milwaukee, playing its first game under rookie coach Terry Porter.

Celtics 98, Heat 75

BOSTON Paul Pierce scored 23 points and Boston made up for the absence of Antoine Walker by placing six scorers in double figures as the Celtics beat Miami.

Playing without their longtime co-captain, who was traded nine days before the season began, the Celtics got 15 points apiece from Vin Baker and Eric Williams, 12 each from Mike James and Raef LaFrentz and 10 from Tony Battie.

Raptors 90, Nets 87

TORONTO Vince Carter scored 25 of his 39 points in the second half as Toronto rallied past New Jersey in the season opener for both teams.

Carter, who played only 43 games last season because of injuries, almost single-handedly gave new Raptors coach Kevin O'Neill his first win.

Carter shot 15-for-30 from the field and 9-for-10 from the foul line for the Raptors, who hope to rebound from an injury-plagued 24-58 season.

Pacers 89, Pistons 87

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. Jermaine O'Neal had 22 points and 15 rebounds as Indiana held on for a victory over Detroit, helping coach Rick Carlisle beat the team that fired him.

In the season opener for both clubs, Indiana led by 10 midway through the fourth quarter before a 13-2 run put Detroit ahead 87-86 with two minutes left. O'Neal scored a go-ahead basket with 1:41 to go and Jeff Foster made a free throw with 14.8 seconds remaining.

Detroit's Chauncey Billups and Mehmet Okur missed shots in the final seconds.

Ron Artest scored 21 points, and Reggie Miller 14 for the Pacers.

Ben Wallace led the Pistons with 16 points, 17 rebounds, five steals and six blocks.

Magic 85, Knicks 83, OT

NEW YORK Tracy McGrady scored half of his 26 points in the fourth quarter and overtime to rally Orlando to a season-opening victory over New York.

Orlando forced overtime with a 10-0 run over the final 3:55 of regulation. The Magic made it a 15-point spurt by scoring the first five points of the extra session punctuated by McGrady's 3-pointer with 3:42 left.

But the Knicks came back with six straight points, taking a 79-78 lead on Kurt Thomas' turnaround jumper.

Tyronn Lue responded with a 3-pointer that made it 81-79, and McGrady then made a huge defensive stop blocking Allan Houston's jumper. That sent Gordan Giricek to a fastbreak basket and three-point play that made it 84-79 with 1:46 remaining.

Hornets 88, Hawks 83, OT

NEW ORLEANS Darrell Armstrong scored 18 points and made an assortment of crucial plays in his New Orleans debut, lifting new coach Tim Floyd and the Hornets over Atlanta.

David Wesley added 16 points, including a 3-pointer in overtime to spark a 7-0 run as the Hornets overcame a late 81-77 deficit. George Lynch, starting for injured All-Star Jamal Mashburn, added 14 points and 12 rebounds in the opener for both teams.

Wizards 99, Bulls 74

CHICAGO Gilbert Arenas was a winner in his Washington debut, scoring 18 points and adding six assists in the Wizards' victory over Chicago.

Larry Hughes added 20 points to lead six Washington players in double figures, and Etan Thomas had 13 points and 13 rebounds

Jazz 99, Trail Blazers 92

SALT LAKE CITY Carlos Arroyo had 18 points and 13 assists in his second career start, and Sasha Pavlovic scored 14 points in his NBA debut as Utah began rebuilding by rallying past Portland.

The Jazz, playing a season opener with neither John Stockton nor Karl Malone in the starting lineup for the first time since 1986, trailed by 13 in the third quarter before overcoming a noticeable size advantage with some torrid shooting.

Utah was 13-for-16 in the fourth quarter, which Andrei Kirilenko capped with a one-handed dunk to set off a Jazz celebration.

Nuggets 80, Spurs 72

DENVER Carmelo Anthony had 12 points and seven rebounds in his NBA debut, leading Denver to a win over San Antonio.

Andre Miller added 16 points, Earl Boykins 13 and Nene 12 for the Nuggets, who overcame poor shooting to knock off the defending NBA champions.

Denver shot 29 percent from the field, compared with 27 percent for the Spurs.

Mavericks 95, Warriors 87

OAKLAND, Calif. Dirk Nowitzki had 29 points and 15 rebounds and Dallas spoiled Golden State's season opener by beating the Warriors for the 18th straight time.

Nowitzki scored five straight points as the Mavericks took control in the fourth quarter and Antoine Walker added 20 points and 14 rebounds for Dallas, which hasn't lost to the Warriors since 1999 and regrouped after losing its season opener to the Los Angeles Lakers a night earlier.

Cliff Robinson scored 18 points and Erick Dampier, Calbert Cheaney and Mike Dunleavy had 14 each for the Warriors, who played without three starters.

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