CLEVELAND - The kid from the local high school stole the show - and all LeBron James could do was watch.
Tiny Earl Boykins, who grew up in Cleveland, scored all 18 of his points in the second half as the Denver Nuggets ruined James' hyped home debut Wednesday night, 93-89 over the winless Cavaliers.
Oh, and the James vs. Carmelo Anthony rivalry? Let's just say it needs some work. Maybe it's a good thing they'll play just once more this season.
"I'm glad it's over," said Anthony, who led Syracuse to an NCAA title as a freshman and will next meet James on Dec. 3 in Denver. "I ain't seen this much media since the national championship game."
Anthony outscored James 14-7 in the eagerly awaited matchup between the NBA's two star rookies. But neither was able to get into the flow and disappointed a sellout crowd of 20,562, which kept waiting for one of them to take over.
Instead, it was the 5-foot-5 Boykins who made all the big shots and plays.
"I'm kind of glad Earl stole the show," Anthony said. "That keeps the pressure off me."
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 added eight more points in the fourth as the Nuggets, who tied Cleveland for the NBA's worst record (17-65) a year ago, 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 with a smile. "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 season.
James and the Cavaliers are still looking for win No. 1, and the top overall draft pick is now 0-4 as a pro and 0-3 in his career against his close friend Anthony. The two 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."
James had the better stat sheet: 11 rebounds and seven assists to Anthony's six and two.
But James couldn't get his game going and went scoreless in the second half, and finished just 3-for-11 from the field.
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."
Anthony, coming off a 1-for-13 night in a loss at Indiana, was 6-for-17.
"I won," Anthony said. "So I'm happy with my performance."
Juneau-Douglas High School alum Carlos Boozer Jr. scored 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds in 28 minutes for the Cavs.
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 feels 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 to James' home opener.
Nike CEO Phil Knight, Reds outfielder Ken Griffey Jr., rapper Jay-Z and suspended Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett were among the celebrities on hand.
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.
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