Denver 105, Cleveland 93

CLEVELAND, March 25 (AP) -- The Denver Nuggets came out running and gunning. They hardly stopped, and they hardly missed.

Carmelo Anthony scored 27 points, Nene had 21 and Allen Iverson 18 as the Nuggets had their best shooting night of the season, finishing off Cleveland with a late flurry in a 105-93 win over the Cavaliers on Sunday night.

Anthony, the league's second-leading scorer, bounced back from a season-low 10-point game in a loss on Friday at Toronto by shooting 12-of-19 from the field. He hit two jumpers and assisted on a basket by Nene as the Nuggets, who shot a season-best 60 percent, outscored Cleveland 8-0 over the final 3:02.

"We wanted to set the pace early, and we did,'' Anthony said.

With the win, Anthony improved to 5-2 in career NBA matchups with LeBron James, his close friend and U.S. Olympic teammate.

James and Zydrunas Ilgauskas scored 18 points apiece for the Cavs, who played sloppily down the stretch and missed their final six shots as they tried to keep up with the fastbreaking Nuggets.

"They came into our building and scored 32 fastbreak points,'' Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "It seems like when we play these types of teams - Phoenix, Dallas, to a certain degree Washington, these guys want to open it up and get into a transition game. We kind of do the same and we run out of gas.''

Cleveland, however, was still within 97-93 when Anthony hit a layup, and following a miss by James, he dropped a 20-footer to put the Nuggets ahead by eight. Daniel Gibson then missed for the Cavs and Anthony streaked down the right side before dropping a pass into the lane for Nene, whose layin made it 103-93.

James turned it over on Cleveland's next trip and Iverson, who added 12 assists, put it away by dropping a floater in the lane.

Linas Kleiza added 14 points and J.R. Smith 13 for Denver, which had dropped two straight, including a 27-point loss to the Raptors.

"After the last game, as men we had to come out and show our pride,'' Iverson said.

The Cavaliers take pride in their defense. They came in allowing an average of 87 points in their past seven home games and had held the shorthanded New York Knicks to a season-low 68 points on Thursday.

The Nuggets, though, topped that number with 5:45 left in the third on a jumper by Steve Blake, and there were times when Denver players were left unguarded.

"This was definitely not one of our best defensive efforts,'' James said, "and we paid for it.''

Ilgauskas scored eight points in the first 4:47 of the fourth, but beginning with two free throws from Anthony, the Nuggets outscored Cleveland 17-6 over the last 6:36 to disappoint an energized crowd that included billionaire Warren Buffett - a guest of James.

Anthony didn't need long to put his worst game of the season behind him, scoring 13 points in the first quarter on 6-of-9 shooting.

But it was Kleiza, left alone by the Cavaliers, who did most of Denver's damage in the second quarter. He scored 12 in the first 5:39, sinking consecutive 3-pointers on his first two shots, as the Nuggets pushed the ball up the floor as if they were facing a Western Conference opponent.

"I didn't really want to run a lot of plays,'' Nuggets coach George Karl said. "I just wanted to play fast. We got wild cards from our bench (Kleiza and Smith), giving us a big lift.''

Denver shot a blistering 60 percent from the floor in the first half, but only led 55-53 at the break.

Notes: The Nuggets were only called for 10 fouls, a league season-low. ... Barring a slide in his stats, James will average at least 26 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists for the third straight season. Oscar Robertson is the only other player to post those numbers over a three-year span. ... Karl, whose first NBA job was with the Cavaliers in 1984, joked that if he had stayed in Cleveland he wouldn't have been nearly as successful. "I remember telling somebody as I approached 700-800 wins that I was thinking I would have been lucky to get 200 in Cleveland,'' said Karl, who went 61-88 in less than two seasons with the Cavs. ... Nuggets F Eduardo Najera didn't play because of a leg bruise.


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