CLEVELAND (AP) – The jersey was too tight and so was the score.
LeBron James took care of both.
James scored 23 points and did some quick tailoring on Cleveland’s body-hugging, sleeved uniforms, Mo Williams added 22 and the Cavaliers won their fourth straight, 96-86 over the New York Knicks on Wednesday night.
James made a 3-pointer and dunked off a nice pass from Williams while scoring 11 in the fourth quarter, when the Cavs outscored the Knicks 26-17.
Tristan Thompson grabbed 13 rebounds and Kevin Love had 12 for Cleveland, which hasn’t lost since opening night in Chicago. The Cavs didn’t have their same ball movement, and they fell behind 15 in the first quarter before finding their groove in the second half, outscoring New York 58-40.
Frustrated with his shot in the first half, an irritated James ripped the sleeves on Cleveland’s new, black jerseys. The four-time MVP, who has complained in the past that the retro-looking tops are too snug on his arms and shoulders, tore his jersey in the midst of a 4-of-11 shooting performance in the opening 24 minutes.
“I was just frustrated with myself,” he said. “I was just off rhythm and the jersey is the only thing I can go to. I couldn’t do nothing to my face. I couldn’t make a bucket so I had to take it out on something.”
Carmelo Anthony scored 17 and rookie Kristaps Porzingis 13 for the Knicks, who were even at 75-all in the fourth when James went to work.
Cleveland’s star capped a 12-4 spurt with a 3-pointer – just his second this season – to give Cleveland an 87-79 lead with 4:01 remaining. Later, he blasted down the lane and thundered home his dunk off a great look from Williams.
“They put the ball in his hands and let him make plays,” Anthony said of James. “You got to make adjustments to that.”
James, who earlier this week became the youngest player in league history to reach 25,000 points, had an off-night from the field, going just 9 of 23.
The jersey might have had something to do with it.
James has never liked the sleeved tops, introduced by the NBA as an alternate look two seasons ago. Following a loss to San Antonio in 2014 when he was with Miami, James said the uniforms are restrictive, making it difficult to shoot.
The Cavaliers will be required to wear this jersey three to six times this season. James was asked if he’d wear sleeves again.
“If the fans love them, I love them,” he said, giving a diplomatic answer. “If our fans love the uniforms, I’ll wear them for 48 (minutes). I’m so used to the sleeveless cutoffs, the tank top. I’ve been playing in tank tops all my life.”
OFF THE MARK
James is just 2 of 18 this season on 3-pointers, but he’s not worried about his long shot just yet.
“I’m just out of rhythm,” he said. “I’ve got to work on it. It’s not like I’m Steph Curry or J.J. Reddick anyway. But I did hit a big one tonight so I just got to get some reps.”
SHARING THE BALL
The Cavaliers came in ranked second in the league in assists (27 per game), a trend James would like to see continue throughout the season.
“That’s how we’re going to win,” he said. “We’re going to win how we’ve been playing and defending at a high level.”
Based on Twitter traffic and some mumbling inside the arena, Cavaliers fans seem divided on the team’s new uniforms. One fan waiting on a concession line thought the V-necked tops “look like pajamas.”
Williams doesn’t mind them.
“I actually like them,” he said. “They look pretty cool to me.”
Knicks: G Arron Afflalo (strained left hamstring) could make his season debut this weekend. He’s done some on-court work but has yet to be cleared for contact drills. … New York is 2-1 on the road, 0-2 at home. … Anthony, now 12-12 in head-to-head matchups with James, joked that he misses former teammates Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith, who were traded by the Knicks to Cleveland last season. “It seems like LeBron took all my family from me,” Anthony snapped.
Cavaliers: Guard Kyrie Irving hasn’t given a date on his possible return from a broken kneecap, but the All-Star told ESPN.com he “sees the light at the end of the tunnel.” … Since Jan. 19, the Cavs are 22-1 in the regular season on their home floor. … Smith sat out with a bruised knee and is expected to miss at least one more game.
Knicks: Host Milwaukee on Friday.
Cavaliers: Host Philadelphia on Friday.