Final Dime: Nuggets 117, Cavaliers 103
Daniel Gibson cans two of his 15 points in Friday night's loss to the Nuggets.
David Liam Kyle
The storyline might have been different on Friday night, but the Nuggets made sure that the result was the same for the reeling Wine and Gold, dropping their 19th straight decision – 117-103 – at The Q.
Less than a minute into the second half, the Nuggets upped their lead to 23 points, and a listless Cavalier club looked like it was ready to pack it in. But Byron Scott’s club came alive at the end of the third period – closing the quarter on a 14-5 run.
Behind Joey Graham’s energy and J.J. Hickson’s blue-collar work in the post, the Cavaliers sliced Denver’s lead to just six points – 99-93 – with 7:55 to play in regulation.
Cleveland stayed within striking distance until Manny Lawson’s uncontested layup and a long Chauncey Billups’ three-pointer put the Nuggets up by a dozen with less than four minutes to play. Hickson’s layup with two minutes to play got the Cavaliers within eight, 111-103, but Cleveland wouldn’t score again – falling for the 28th time in their last 29 outings.
“I thought in the second half we came out a little bit more aggressive,” said Coach Scott. “We did a much better job on both ends of the floor until the last five or six minutes when we started breaking down again.”
Five Cavaliers notched double-figures and three of them doubled-up, led by the red-hot J.J. Hickson, who finished with 24 points – on 10-for-12 shooting – with a game-high 14 boards.
“I think at some point in everybody in this locker room’s career, they have been a winner,” said Hickson. “Myself personally, I came to this team to two 60-plus win seasons. I just hate losing. It’s a tough season for us and hopefully we can turn it around.”
Antawn Jamison added 20 points and a season-high 12 boards – adding six assists and a steal. Ramon Sessions followed up with 14 points and a game-high 13 assists.
Daniel Gibson rounded out the starters in double-figures with 15 points, going 5-for-14 from the floor. Joey Graham came off Cleveland’s bench to tally 14 points, six boards and a pair of steals against his former club.
The Cavaliers and Nuggets shot a comparable percentage from the floor, although Denver shot 43 percent from beyond the arc compared to the Cavs’ 31. One big disparity came from the line, where Carmelo Anthony hit as many free throws as the entire Cavaliers team, with Denver taking a dozen more shots from the stripe.
Cleveland heads to the Sunshine State for a back-to-back beginning on Sunday evening in Orlando and wrapping up on Monday night in Miami.
2. Over his last 14 games, Ramon Sessions is averaging 14.4 points and 6.9 assists per contest. Excluding last Saturday’s start in which Sessions left with an abdominal strain in the first quarter, Sessions is averaging 16.3 ppg as a starter.
3. J.J. Hickson has been a beast as of late. Since the Cavaliers traveled out West, Hickson is averaging 14.4 points and 12.0 rebounds in those 11 contests. He’s averaging 14.7 boards per contest over his last four games.
4. The beat goes on for Antawn Jamison, who topped the 20-point mark for the 19th time this season on Friday night. He’s scored 20 or more points in 10 of the 14 games in January.
5. George Karl – who began his coaching career with the Cavaliers, going 61-88 in two seasons with Cleveland – had some words of encouragement for his former club after Friday’s win.
“They are just going to have to hang in there until they get some confidence,” said Karl. “They’ll be good enough to win some games.”
6. After the game, Anthony Parker and his brother-in-law, Nuggets forward Shelden Williams – who’s married to Candace – hung out for a few minutes after Friday’s game.
7. A pair of assistants did battle against their former clubs on Friday night. Cavs assistant Jamahl Mosely spent five years with the Nuggets. Melvin Hunt, now one of Karl’s assistants, spent the same amount of time in Cleveland.
8. Against his former team, Joey Graham notched a season-high tying 14 points on 6-10 shooting, adding a season-high six rebounds and two assists. Over his last three games, Graham is averaging 12.7 points on 15-26 (.577) shooting.
9. For the second time this month, the Cavaliers featured three players who notched a double-double. The last time they did so was Jan. 14th at Utah (J.J. Hickson, Antawn Jamison and Mo Williams).
10. Daniel Gibson came into Friday’s game still as the sixth-ranked three-point shooter in the NBA. Gibson was 5-for-11 from beyond the arc on Friday. Each of his field goal attempts was from long-distance.
Joe Gabriele is the official beat writer for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Cavs.com. You can follow Joe and send him your questions on Twitter at @CavsJoeG.