June 27, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Cavs rally but can’t catch Nuggets, drop 19th straight game

CLEVELAND – The Cavaliers couldn’t beat the Denver Nuggets with LeBron James, so it was a given they wouldn’t do it without him.

Nuggets superstar Carmelo Anthony had 33 points, seven rebounds and five assists Friday night, leading Denver to a 117-103 win over Cleveland at Quicken Loans Arena.

It was the Cavaliers’ 19th straight loss, tying their franchise record for a season set in 1981-1982 and equaling the fifth-longest skid in NBA history – four games behind the mark shared by Vancouver and Denver.

“Of course, we’re not playing to lose, nobody here is,” said center J.J. Hickson, who paced Cleveland with 24 points, 14 rebounds and two blocked shots. “At some point, everybody in this locker room has won in the past.

“This is very frustrating because we’ve got to do a better job knowing what we’re doing out there. Why we aren’t, that’s a question that I can’t answer.”

Anthony did a pretty good impression of fellow 2003 draftee James in powering the Nuggets (28-18) to their fifth season sweep of Cleveland (8-38) during his eight-year career.

The All-Star small forward relentlessly attacked the rim, allowing him to go 15-of-18 from the foul line and stake Denver to a 73-50 lead early in the third quarter.

At that point, the light bulb inexplicably went on for the Cavaliers, who cut their deficit to 93-83 by the end of the period.

Hickson, power forward Antawn Jamison (20 points, 12 rebounds, six assists), point guard Ramon Sessions (14 points, game-high 13 assists) and small forward Joey Graham (14 points, six rebounds) led the charge for the wine and gold, and awoke the non-sellout crowd of 19,642.

“I don’t know of many NBA games that you keep a 20-point lead for the whole game, especially on the opposing team’s court,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “Fortunately, we held on and made enough plays in the fourth quarter to win.”

Actually, Cleveland made more than enough plays to lose in the fourth quarter. It pulled within six points on three occasions, only to self-destruct for the umpteenth time this disastrous winter.

Backup center Ryan Hollins committed back-to-back three-second violations with the Cavaliers trailing 97-91, Graham missed a pair of uncontested shots when they were down 99-93, and Hickson and Jamison combined to commit three straight fouls after the score was 101-95.

Denver point guards Ty Lawson (15 points, five assists) and Chauncey Billups (11 points, four assists) then put Cleveland to sleep by scoring 11 points in the final 4:21.

“I could care less about the record, as far as that’s concerned,” said Cavaliers coach Byron Scott, whose squad is 1-29 in its last 30 games. “This game is over and we’ll get ready (for practice today).”

By losing 19 straight games, Cleveland also matched the ninth-longest overall streak in NBA history. The Cavaliers own that record with a 24-gamer that spanned the 1981-1982 and 1982-1983 seasons – and could reach that figure Feb. 5 at home against Portland.

“Give them credit, the Cavs continued to play with a lot of intensity,” said Nuggets guard Arron Afflalo, who made four 3-pointers and scored 23 points. “I am going to give them a lot of credit for competing.”

Daniel Gibson also reached double-figures for Cleveland with 15 points on 5-of-11 3-pointers, while Kenyon Martin had eight points and nine boards for Denver before fouling out.

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.

Nuggets 117, Cavs 103

DENVER (117): Anthony 9-22 15-18 33, Martin 4-6 0-2 8, Nene 2-3 3-5 7, Billups 3-9 2-2 11, Afflalo 9-15 1-1 23, Smith 4-8 0-0 10, Harrington 0-5 2-4 2, S.Williams 3-5 2-2 8, Lawson 7-13 0-1 15. Totals 41-86 25-35 117.

CLEVELAND (103): Eyenga 3-9 0-0 6, Jamison 7-19 5-7 20, Hickson 10-12 4-8 24, Sessions 4-10 6-8 14, Gibson 5-14 0-0 15, Hollins 2-2 0-0 4, Graham 6-10 0-0 14, Parker 1-5 0-0 2, Samuels 1-2 0-0 2, Harris 1-4 0-0 2, Gee 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 40-88 15-23 103.

Denver             31            39            23            24            –           117
Cleveland        24           26            33            20            –           103

3-Point Goals-Denver 10-23 (Afflalo 4-7, Billups 3-6, Smith 2-3, Lawson 1-1, Anthony 0-2, Harrington 0-4), Cleveland 8-26 (Gibson 5-11, Graham 2-4, Jamison 1-5, Eyenga 0-1, Harris 0-1, Parker 0-4). Fouled Out-Martin. Rebounds-Denver 55 (Martin 9), Cleveland 56 (Hickson 14). Assists-Denver 23 (Lawson, Anthony 5), Cleveland 27 (Sessions 13). Total Fouls-Denver 23, Cleveland 27. Technicals-Cleveland defensive three second. A-19,642 (20,562).


• WHO:  Cleveland at Orlando
• WHEN: Sunday, 6 p.m.
• WHERE: Amway Center, Orlando, Fla.
•  TV/RADIO: FS Ohio; WTAM 1100-AM, WEOL 930-AM