The Cleveland Cavaliers ended the 2015 calendar year on a high-note with a 93-87 over the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday. The final score really is not an indicator of how much the Cavs dominated the game.
Cleveland was in cruise control most of the game as Denver led for a total of 16 seconds (4-2). The game quickly became the LeBron James show as he scored seven of the Cavs first 12 points to give Cleveland a 12-4 lead after five minutes of action. The Nuggets did fight back and kept the game relatively close until midway through the second quarter when James, who had 15 first half points, tallied eight straight points – two jumpers and two buckets at the rim – and the Cavaliers took their first double-digit lead at 41-30. Cleveland extended its lead to as many as 15 before settling for a 11-point halftime when Iman Shumpert made a layup with 0.3 seconds left. The Cavs totaled 53 points and shot 51 percent in the first half.
Playing their fourth game in five days the Cavs as a probably expected got a little lackluster and sloppy in the second half to allow the Nuggets to make the final score.
James, who turned 31 today, had a bounce to his step that he has had in his previous four games and his jumper flowed off his right index finger smoothly as he was feeling it. Coming into the game, James was shooting 38 percent and averaging 18.8 points in his previous four games.
James finished with 34 points nearly outscoring Denver’s starters, which tallied 35 points, himself. He finished 13-of-24 (54.2%) from the field and added six rebounds though he also committed five turnovers. Shumpert added a season-high 16 points.
Cleveland (21-9) has won two straight and finished its four game west coast swing at 2-2 to improve to 8-8 on the road. Kyrie Irving (rest) missed his second game since coming back from injury as it was the second game of back-to-back games. The Cavs are 54-18 since last January 1.
Will Barton had 29 points for the injury-riddled Nuggets (12-20), who’ve now dropped six of seven. Denver has once again without Danilo Gallinari (sprained left ankle) and rookie Emmanuel Mudiay (sprained right ankle).
The Cavaliers are off until Saturday when they host the Orlando Magic. Denver is at Portland (13-20) on Wednesday.
On the eve of his 31st birthday, LBJ looked refreshed. Definitely, much better than last night when he tallied just 14 points on 4-of-10 shooting against Phoenix.
James finished the game with a game score of 23.6, his best performance in the last six games, and a plus-3 +/- rating along with a usage percentage of 41.8%.
James was also very good defensively, recording a rating of 90. This season, James is holding the players he is guarding to 32.2 percent from the floor.
Shumpert saw his most extensive action in his eight games this season, playing a touch over 31 minutes and producing a game score of 14 despite having a minus-1 +/- rating. He was 7-of-13 from the field, including 2-of-5 on three-point attempts, and contributed three rebounds to go along with two assists and two steals.
More importantly, Shumpert changed the pace of the game as he was active on the defensive end and aggressive on the offensive end. Shumpert got to the basket seven times last night, four times off the dribble and three times in transition, making four of those shots. He has now made 7-of-11 layups this season.
A night after being criticized, the Cavs defense needs some props. While Joffrey Lauvergne (14 points) along with Nikola Jokic (10) seemingly had their way in the post, often bullying Timofey Mozgov and Kevin Love, Cleveland did a pretty good job protecting the paint. Denver did tally 48 points in the paint but the Nuggets needed 46 shots to do so and they tallied 12 of those points in the fourth quarter as Cleveland was wearing down – four of the 12 points came via the fast break.
The Cavaliers permitted the Nuggets to tally 12 second chance points and 12 offensive rebounds – which is four second chance less than the Suns had and two fewer offensive rebounds. Overall, Cleveland held Denver to 41.6 percent shooting, including just 20.6 percent from beyond the arc, and forced 18 turnovers with 12 coming from steals – which the Cavs turned into 26 points with 16 coming off the fast break.
Cleveland has held six of its last 10 opponents to under 90 points. They allow their opponents to shoot 43.5 percent from the field and 33.2 percent from beyond the arc.