by Russ Bengtson

It’s the first official day of the Z-Bo/E-City domestic partnership, and I’m more excited than Stephon Marbury on MSG. Tragically I couldn’t be on-site in Cleveland (my jet’s in the shop), but I absolutely HAD to blog about this game.

We’re joined by Al Trautwig, Gus Johnson and Walt Frazier, who dressed up as a ‘70s couch for the occasion.

Eddy Curry, according to Gus, is “a little bit older, a little bit more refined.” Also, LeBron James IS “the best all-around player in the NBA.” Did Kobe retire?

LeBron had 10 points in the Cavs opening night loss to the Mavericks. Expect him to hang at LEAST 35 on the Knicks.

Eddy Curry: “We should be in the playoffs, no question about that.” Yep, good luck with that.

You know, I think I’ve hit on this before, but the Knicks have an awful lot of guys with neck tattoos. Neck tattoos! Remember when Dennis Rodman first got his tats and everyone was so startled? Or when Allen Iverson got sleeved up? Now you’ve got guys like Eddy Curry and Steph (and AI and Larry Hughes and Robert Swift and Stack Jack and Delonte West) who are almost entirely covered in ink, and no one cares. I guess it’s progress? It’s actually reached the point that you’re shocked when guys DON’T have tattoos. (Looking for the real reason Channing Frye got traded?)

Starters for the Knicks: Jamal, Steph, EC, Z-Bo, Q

Cavs: LeBron, Hughes, Gooden, Z, Boobie

FIRST QUARTER

And Boobie gets the scoring started with a four-point play. That doesn’t happen often. Steph is the culprit with the late reach-in.

Crawford is fouled on the other end, hits a pair.

LeBron’s first shot, a contested post-up off glass, is a miss. Marbury takes it the length of the floor, can’t convert, gets his own, and puts it back up—fouled. Hits a pair. Tied at 4.

Gooden to Z. Good. Jamal answers. The Eddy/Z-Bo question has been answered—neither of them are going to get the ball, ever.

Curry defensive board, Marbury all the way to the basket. 8-6, Knicks. Boobie ties it back up.

Z-Bo hits his first shot, a rainbow baseline J over Gooden.

Drew misses over Z-Bo, Q rebounds, up to Steph, who misses the lefty layup in traffic. Guess he was serious about shooting all the time. Boobie hits on the other end.

Zach misses, Cavs rebound, Bron is fouled and heads to the line. Zach is apparently “talking to Steph.” I bet. Bron hits both.

Curry with a bad shot over Z, Z pushes it up, Bron turnaround over Q in the paint.

Z-Bo around Drew, can’t hit, steals the rebound from Z and puts it back in. Lotta Z’s in this game—it’s a Tarzan Cooper special. Drew Gooden. Zach again with a deep jumper. “This man has shown no fear of New York City,” says Clyde. Um, not likewise.

Boobie! He’s got, like, 35 points.

Turnover, turnover. Drew Gooden’s beard is impressive. Must be a Yay thing.

Q-Rich, on the board. No one appears to be playing defense. Larry Hughes with a jumper. 21-17, Cavs.

Curry with the backdoor cut, Crawford with the alley, Curry with the reverse oop. Gonna see a lot of that.

Bron miss, Randolph re, Curry with a nice move through Z. Layup. 21-all, and the Cavs want to talk about it. Curry is “hustling and muscling,” and you can guess who said that.

Z from deep, no. Q-Rich from three, yes. He’s got six. Crawford gets the steal from Hughes, Gooden fouls Jamal in the backcourt. Z-Bo with the entry to a deeply embedded Curry, who scores over Z. Hughes answers.

3:40 to go, and no subs yet.

Crawford fumbles the ball, gets it back, hits a high-arcing floater over Boobie.

David Lee and Nate Robinson, up in here. 3:15.

Gooden with a 20-footer over Lee.

Curry, fouled on the floor by Gooden, hits the shot—but it doesn’t count. So far no one on Cleveland can stop Z-Bo or Curry.

David Lee looks like he’s aged 10 years since his rookie season.

Crawford, lots of dribbling, bucket over Hughes.

Donyell Marshall’s in there, assists a LeBron three at the shot clock buzzer.

Eddy Curry, fouled, comes down holding his neck/shoulder. He’s not wearing a brace. Not entirely sure who fouled him, because I don’t recognize him. Dwayne Jones, apparently. Curry misses both free throws. Renaldo Balkman is in, and immediately fouls LeBron. Devin Brown is in for the Cavs. And, uh, Balkman fouls LeBron again. To the line this time. He hits both.

Curry misses, Cavs rebound, Bron takes it RIGHT AT Balkman, and gets fouled. Again. Balkman could foul out in less than a minute. Instead he goes back out for Q. Bron hits one of two.

Eddy Curry jump hook, good. 32-all.

LeBron is trapped in the corner, throws an ill-advised pass up top, deflected by Nate, turnover. On the other end, Curry scores again.

LeBron drive at the end of the quarter, kick to a wide-open Donyell in the corner for a three, and he misses. That looked familiar. Knicks up 34-32 at the end of 1.

SECOND QUARTER

Hey, it’s Fred Jones!

These lineups don’t deserve play-by-play attention.

Damon Jones guarding David Lee in the post probably shouldn’t happen ever. Yet it does. I’m hoping that Z tries to check Nate on the perimeter later.

Nate, Lee, Steph, Q and Z-Bo. Fun lineup.

Q draws a charge on Boobie.

Uh, where was I? 43-41, Knicks. Make it 45. David Lee!

Lee gets a breather. Bron misses a pair of free throws. STOP THAT.

Knicks turnover, Gibson misses a jumper, Drew pushes off.

Bron, glass.

Crawford, pullup, floater, glass. He’s got 10.

Bron, brick.

Gibson steal, Hughes alley, Bron reverse layup.

Z-Bo misses everything, Bron pumpfakes and draws the foul on Q. Time out. Hit, miss. I hate to nitpick, but can you be the best all-around player in the game when you can’t hit free throws? Of course he gets his own rebound, hits, gets fouled AGAIN, and hits the ensuing free throw. Take that, me.

Bron skip pass to Boobie who misses badly, Curry comes down with it, and Steph is fouled driving to the bucket. Misses the first, hits the second. 52-49, Knicks.

Curry blocks Boobie, Bron recovers but can’t hit, ball goes out of bounds back to the Cavs. Bron misses, second-chances it. Yells. 22 points for LeBron.

Crawford, drive, knocked out of bounds. The ball, that is. Crawford misses off the inbounds, Dwayne Jones rebounds, Damon Jones trey.

LeBron off glass, no, Z-Bo coast to coast! Can’t finish, Curry is there to clean up with the rebound and the layup. All tied up. Curry and Randolph have combined for 24 and 12 so far.

6.4 seconds in the half. LeBron’s fouled with 4.2 left, back to the line. He doesn’t have a rhythm at the line—he just catches the ball, spins it, shoots it. Maybe throw a dribble in there or something? He misses the first. Second one has a super-high arc, hits it.

JC with the long runner at the half, no good. 53-52 Cavs at the half, LeBron has 23. Forget a halftime show, gonna catch a little of Celtics/Wizards. Apologies if I get back to this one a little late.

BONUS COVERAGE

Gilbert Arenas does not appear to have 100 points yet, as the score is 26-22 Celtics. The Celtics are showing off their spectacular lack of depth by playing Brian Scalabrine and Scot Pollard at the same time. I wasn’t even aware that was legal. Also, Scot Pollard is wearing number 66. He’s like, a professional quirk. In that vein, he’s also wearing the same vintage Air Max Uptempos that he’s worn since, hell, Kansas, probably. They’re not in production anymore, which means either he has a HUGE stash of them, or someone at Nike is making them specifically for Scot Pollard. Not sure which thought is more frightening. I swear I must have asked him about it once, but I don’t remember what the answer was. Or whether there even was one.

Sorry for the long digression. KG’s on the bench anyway. And now we’re in a time out.

Gilbert Arenas, now THERE’S a good free-throw ritual. Even if he did just make it up so kids would imitate him. Rip Hamilton’s ritual is my personal favorite.

I love NASCAR updates during NBA games.

Speaking of uniform numbers, the Celtics have a HUGE total out there right now: 66 (Pollard), 44 (Scalabrine), 42 (Tony Allen), 34 (Pierce), 50 (House). Not sure whether it’s an all-time record (has anyone ever tracked that?) but it has to be close.

The Celtics lead by 10, by the way. And neither Garnett nor Ray Allen have been in the game since I switched over. Make that 12.

OK, back to OH.

THIRD QUARTER

Z-Bo has forsaken the headband.

Eddy Curry may have feline quickness, but he sure missed the hell out of that jumper.

Z-Bo over Z, cash money.

Drew Gooden with the answer.

Z-Bo again, from 18 or 19. Leftys are tough.

Larry Hughes.

Crawford drives on Hughes, draws the foul.

LeBron. Yes.

Curry backs in, hits backwards jump hook over a double team.

Bron misses a three, Randolph rebounds, Steph misses a free throw line jumper, Bron tips the rebound to Z, who eventually has it underneath, and it’s knocked out of bounds. Back to the Cavs. Hughes gets blocked by Crawford, Z-Bo comes down with it. Curry over the double again, no dice. Hughes misses, Z-Bo gets his 10th rebound to go with his 14 points.

Marbury out, Nate in, Crawford jumper. 65-62, Knicks.

Gooden goaltended by E-City, who grabs it out of the air.

Z-Bo, jumper over Gooden. When he or Curry get the ball down low—or anywhere else in the frontcourt—the next thing it touches is the rim or the net.

Z, and 1. Money. 67-all.

Q, into Curry, who rumbles into the lane like a drunk on a crowded subway platform, somehow doesn’t get called for an offensive foul or travel, and kicks out to Nate Robinson for three.

Z, bad shot, Nate rebound, Crawford with the baseline dunk. 72-67 Knicks, and “the Knicks are finding their swagger,” says Johnson. The Cavs should be finding their LeBron James.

Out of the time out he misses a corner three, Robinson rebounds, Curry bricks a jump hook. Then a three-second violation on the Cavs.

David Lee’s back in there. He probably won’t lead the team in minutes no matter what Jeff Van Gundy thinks.

Hey, whatever happened to Anderson Varejao? The Cavs could really use that guy.

Those tri-color Knick warm-ups are horrible (I can’t find a photo, so you’ll have to trust me).

Nate for three out of the time out. 75-69, Knicks.

LeBron with a ridiculous floating layup, can’t get it to fall, and Nate comes back and hits another three. Knicks up 9, their biggest lead of the night. LeBron answers with a three of his own—man, did they need that.

Crawford, carry.

Bron’s straightaway three pings off the front of the rim, goes out of bounds to the side.

Dwayne Jones banging with Curry, foul off the ball. I’m sure Eddy Curry is thinking the same thing I am: Who are you and why are you on the Cavs? Inbounds, Nate drives, pulls up, is blocked by Jones. Crawford fires one up at the shot clock buzzer, Cavs knock it out of bounds. Sigh. Curry gets it, is fouled by Dwayne Jones. His 4th. Curry misses the first (that’s 0-4), and the second.

Donyell Marshall misses another corner three, Damon Jones comes down with it, knocked out of bounds, still Cavs ball. Damon hits a trey. Three-point game.

Curry blocked out of bounds by Marshall. Crawford drives baseline, stopped by the double, shoots over the top. Wet.

Bron fouled by Q up top. He hasn’t done much in the second half that I’ve seen. Enter Fred Jones. There’s a lot of Joneses in this game—Ryan should be the one keeping notes. LeBron, travel, dunk. Travel comes first.

Curry takes a seat. Nate dribbles up, holds, kicked to Crawford, misses a three, Knicks are there to put it back, but can’t. End of the third, Knicks 80, Cavs 75.

Flip it over to ESPN long enough to see Stephen A., Stuart Scott and Bill Walton in the studio. Haha, NO. Are there people out there watching this on purpose? Not sure who’s idea this team was, but I hope they have their résumé in order.

FOURTH QUARTER

Nate has 12 points on four threes and five shots.

Damon Jones, with a driving layup? Not sure when I saw that last.

Z-Bo is deadly from 17, 18 feet. Man.

LeBron, one dribble, pull-up over Fred Jones. That’s 31.

LeBron interception, drive, tied up by Nate Robinson. Hits both, Knicks by one.

Lee drives, fouled by Damon Jones who is shocked. SHOCKED! Non-shooting. Randolph can’t get it, Nate resets, Fred Jones travels.

“A lot of Joneses in this game,” Johnson muses. Beat you to it, Gus.

Nate with the rare two-point basket. Damon Jones misses, Dwayne Jones hits the glass, puts it in, gets fouled. Misses the freebie.

Big Z fouls Z-Bo off the ball.

Z-Bo with a wild pass out of the double to LeBron. Wonder if he turns it over on purpose so he doesn’t have to pass as much? He’s fouled, the Cavs inbound, can’t convert.

Steph, jumper. Haven’t heard his name in a while. Knicks by three.

Another Cavs turnover, Z travels and Z-Bo is right there with the emphatic call.

Z-Bo misses, LeBron with the rebound, drive, kick to Boobie in the left corner for three. Tied at 86, 7 minutes to go.

Z-Bo against the double, puts it up anyway, Big Z swatz it out of boundz.

Starbury bad shot, gets it back, Cavs recover, up to Bron, tough driving bucket over Q, and 1. Yep. Bron’s got 36 with 6:35 to go.

Crawford no, loose ball foul on LeBron—a literal slap on the wrist. David Lee to the line for two. One of two.

LeBron from up top to Boobie in the corner, for another three. Cavs by five. Steph answers with a three.

Boobie, opposite corner, cash. 95-90, Cavs. Time out, Knicks.

Curry is rejected by Z, sulks, Cavs push it and Boobie hits ANOTHER three. Sasha who? Gibson’s got 24 points, a career high.

Curry is doubled, Q is forced to put up an ABSURD three-point attempt. No good. Ball goes out of bounds to the Knicks. Crawford up top, drives, fouled by Z, his fourth. Both, yes. Six-point Cavs lead.

LeBron drive, to Boobie, drive, to Z, rejected and deflected by Crawford. Apologies to Clyde. Cavs inbound, Bron is fouled by Z-Bo. Miss, hit. 37.

Z-Bo, doubled, wraps the ball inside to Curry, money.

LeBron one dribble pull-up over Q. That’s 39, three minutes to go.

Crawford misses, Gooden out with it—and loses it. Z-Bo converts.

Not sure what just happened. LeBron’s on the deck thinking he got fouled (or that there was a time out) off a play when the teams were walking off the court. Meanwhile he stays down while the Knicks go the other way and Z-Bo earns a trip to the stripe. I guess LeBron’s basket counted? I think?

The Cavs arena has been strangely silent all night. You can almost hear a mortgage foreclose.

Z-Bo, one of two from the line. 103-97.

Bron misses a three, Curry is holding Z on the rebound, sending Z to the line. It’s only Curry’s second foul, which is something of a moral victory, I suppose. Both go down for Big Z.

Nate, jumper, good. Two minutes.

LeBron misses a pullup over Crawford, Gooden corrals the rebound, gets it to Hughes, to Gooden, back to Hughes, nothing. Curry rebound, Nate is fouled on an off-balance drive. To the line. Misses the first, hits the second.

Under a minute. LeBron on the wing, can’t score, Z and Gooden keep it alive, reset, Bron gets stripped, Crawford is fouled by Z with 22.1, hits both. Marbury’s back on for Q. Cavs up three.

Hack-a-Bron?

Instead, Z gets the ball up top and is fouled. How often is the center a better free-throw shooter than the All-Star wingman? This is Cleveland, not L.A. Big Z coolly drops one of two. Cavs by 4, 19.9 to go.

Just glanced at the ESPN website, and Boston is kicking the CRAP out of Washington.

Crawford, layup. 106-104. And they foul LeBron in the backcourt with 13.9 seconds. Bron hits the first, rattles home the second. 108-104.

I just noticed that Boobie Gibson has a giant star shaved in his head. Yeesh. (Couldn’t find a photo of that, either.)

Q misses the heck out of a three, Jamal misses a floater, Bron comes down with the rebound and gets fouled again with 4.5 seconds left. Hits ‘em both again. LeBron’s got 45.

And that’s a wrap. 110-106, Cavs.

POSTGAME

Tough loss for the Knicks. Can Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph play together? Apparently. Z-Bo prefers to stay out of the paint on the offensive end anyway, so they don’t seem to get in each other’s way all that much. But some of the same old problems haven’t been addressed—mainly free-throw shooting and stepping out to contest three-point shooters.

As for the Cavs, they need to figure out what’s going on with Varejao one way or the other ASAP. Their defense was shaky at best tonight, and Varejao could have helped a lot. Also, I’m not sure how they’re going to win when LeBron’s off his game, like in the opener against the Mavs. Tonight they got 69 combined from LeBron and Boobie, yet only won by four. Pavlovic will help, but guys like Damon Jones and Donyell Marshall need to come in and hit their shots. Otherwise this could be a long season for Cavs fans. Also, LeBron had better be shooting 500 free throws a day.