CLEVELAND — The Cavaliers weren’t terrible Saturday night. The Denver Nuggets were just better.
George Karl’s balanced and talented team had eight players score in double figures en route to a 111-103 victory at sold-out Quicken Loans Arena, ending the Cavs’ three-game winning streak and once again leaving them without a four-game win streak since LeBron James left town in 2010.
“I just thought they played a little harder than we did,” Cleveland coach Byron Scott said. “We played hard and competed, but they had that little extra ‘oomph’ you need.”
The Nuggets (33-18), whose nine straight wins are the most in the league at the moment, got 19 points and nine rebounds from small forward Danilo Gallinari, 17 points and seven boards from power forward Kenneth Faried, 14 points and seven assists from shooting guard Andre Iguodala and 13 points from backup center JaVale McGee.
Denver also got 11 points from point guard Ty Lawson and 10 points and nine boards from center Kosta Koufos, with Andre Miller and Corey Brewer adding 10 points apiece.
“You can’t go into a game saying, ‘We’re going to take this guy away,’” Scott said. “They’ve got so many weapons.”
The Cavs didn’t have nearly enough, as they got outscored 62-32 in the paint and outrebounded 46-38 in addition to their 19-5 deficit in fastbreak points.
Point guard Kyrie Irving, who took a knee to the thigh with 3:50 to go, had 26 points, six rebounds and seven assists but shot just 10-for-24 from the field.
Subtract Alonzo Gee, who had 15 points in the first 5:44 and finished with 20 on 8-for-8 shooting, and the Cavs went 29-for-76 from the floor (.382).
Marreese Speights was 1-for-10, making him 4-for-24 over the last two games, and Dion Waiters was 1-for-6. Starting center Tyler Zeller, meanwhile, has attempted three shots over the last two games.
“I feel like we’re still making steps in the right direction,” Irving said. “Both groups, the starters and the bench, were lacking a bit of energy. We were a step behind and they just outplayed us.”
Despite all that, the Cavs stayed close, largely because of 9-for-20 shooting from beyond the arc. Wayne Ellington made 3-for-4 from long range en route to 13 points, while Gee was perfect on three attempts.
“We ran into a team that’s playing pretty good basketball,” Scott said. “We hung in there. In my mind, we didn’t take a step back.”
The Cavs’ undoing came at the end of quarters. They were outscored 6-2 in the last 55.7 seconds of the first, 6-0 in the final 41.9 of the second to fall behind 58-52 at the half and 5-0 in the last 52.6 of the third to trail 84-73.
Totaled, that’s a 17-2 Denver advantage in 2:30.2, with Waiters misses, failing to get back on defense and turnovers playing huge roles.
“We want to win those mini-battles,” Scott said. “Tonight we didn’t.”
The Cavs, who trailed by 14 early in the fourth, got back within striking distance on several occasions, but committed a number of costly turnovers.
After committing just six in each of their last two games, the Cavs had 16 against the high-octane Nuggets, who had 20 of their own.
“We just didn’t make the adjustments,” Irving said. “Part of that stems from me not being aware. We just have to learn from it going forward.”
When Cavs general manager Chris Grant walked by as Karl was doing his pregame session with the media outside the Denver locker room, the Nuggets coach jokingly asked Grant if he had made any trades. “We’re open for business, as long as you’ve got picks,” Grant responded with a smile.
** The sellout, which featured a lot of empty red seats, was Cleveland’s fourth of the season. The Cavs sold out against Oklahoma City a week earlier and in their first two games of the season.
** Denver began the night with the sixth-best record in the league but did not land a player on the Western Conference All-Star team. “We’re going to try to shock the world and become the first team to win a championship without a superstar, without an All-Star,” Karl said.
** Karl coached the Cavs for almost two seasons from 1984-86, going 61-88.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or email@example.com.
Nuggets 111, Cavs 103
DENVER (111): Gallinari 6-13 4-5 19, Faried 7-12 3-6 17, Koufos 5-8 0-0 10, Lawson 3-11 4-4 11, Iguodala 6-9 0-0 14, Chandler 2-6 3-4 7, McGee 6-7 1-2 13, A.Miller 3-8 4-5 10, Brewer 2-6 6-8 10. Totals 40-80 25-34 111.
CLEVELAND (103): Gee 8-8 1-2 20, Thompson 4-10 3-4 11, Zeller 1-3 5-6 7, Irving 10-24 4-4 26, Waiters 1-6 1-2 3, Speights 1-10 3-4 5, Livingston 5-8 1-2 11, Walton 0-2 0-0 0, Ellington 4-6 2-2 13, Miles 3-7 0-0 7. Totals 37-84 20-26 103.
Denver 30 28 26 27 — 111
Cleveland 32 20 21 30 — 103
3-Point Goals—Denver 6-17 (Gallinari 3-6, Iguodala 2-3, Lawson 1-2, A.Miller 0-1, Chandler 0-2, Brewer 0-3), Cleveland 9-20 (Gee 3-3, Ellington 3-4, Irving 2-5, Miles 1-5, Walton 0-1, Thompson 0-1, Speights 0-1). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Denver 55 (Gallinari, Koufos 9), Cleveland 47 (Irving, Zeller 6). Assists—Denver 23 (Iguodala 7), Cleveland 24 (Irving 7). Total Fouls—Denver 21, Cleveland 23. Technicals—Zeller. A—20,562 (20,562).
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