CLEVELAND: For the second time in as many nights, the Cavs were dominated in the post. Only this time, the guards weren’t able to bail out the Cavs.
The Cavs’ defense struggled to defend the Nuggets and keep them off the glass in a 111-103 loss, ending the Cavs’ brief three-game winning streak.
Kyrie Irving had 26 points and seven assists and Alonzo Gee had 20, but the Cavs struggled to close quarters all night, they were outrebounded at critical points in the fourth quarter and they couldn’t contend with a Nuggets roster that placed eight scorers in double figures.
Andre Miller snuck through a sea of Cavs’ bigs for a tip-in with 6:06 left to put the Nuggets up 11. Then when Miller missed the second of two free throws, Timofey Mozgov grabbed the rebound and Danilo Gallinari converted with a 3-pointer, pushing the Nuggets’ lead to 105-93 with 4:39 left. It was that kind of night for the Cavs’ bigs.
Tristan Thompson was the lone post player to compete against the Nuggets, who extended their winning streak to nine consecutive games. Thompson had 11 points and four rebounds, but Tyler Zeller and Mo Speights combined to shoot 2 of 13. Neither made a basket until the fourth quarter and the Nuggets outscored the Cavs in the lane 62-32.
Zeller also struggled mightily in Friday’s victory against the Orlando Magic, failing to take a shot while getting dominated by Magic center Nikola Vucevic. It was much of the same Saturday, although he did grab six rebounds.
Kenneth Faried had 17 points, JaVale McGee had 13 and Kosta Koufos had 10 points and nine rebounds for the Nuggets, whose reputation as a team that feasts on turnovers and fast breaks is well deserved. Considered perhaps the best team in the league at turning steals into points, the Nuggets had 19 fast-break points and led for the entire second half.
The loss overshadowed a surprisingly productive night from Gee, who matched the number of baskets he’d made over the previous five games. Gee was 8 of 8 shooting, but six of those shots came in the first quarter when he had half of the Cavs’ 32 points.