Wrap-Up -- On Wednesday night in Denver, LeBron James went off for 30 points in his first 24 minutes of action. Turned out, he was just getting warmed up.
After scoring his first 30, the four-time MVP scored the squad’s final nine points – willing the Wine & Gold past the Nuggets, 113-108, to tip off a six-game, 12-day road trip in dramatic fashion.
The Cavaliers didn’t trail through the first three quarters, leading by as many as 16 points before Denver rallied in the fourth – eventually taking their first lead on a Mason Plumlee layup with 8:35 to play.
It was a dogfight from there, but when push came to shove, the Association’s alpha dog took over.
Nikola Jokic hit two straight buckets to get Denver to within a deuce, 106-104, with just 1:30 to play. But on Cleveland’s next possession, James proceeded to can a long three-pointer to put the Cavs up five. Paul Millsap scored on a dunk, but LeBron came right back to score on a gorgeous 16-footer on the next trip down the floor.
Jokic hit another pair of free throws to get the Nuggets back to within three, but the four-time MVP would not be denied – splashing home a 12-foot fadeaway as his momentum carried him into the courtside seats across from the Nuggets bench, sealing the deal the Cavaliers’ fifth straight road win.
On the night, James finished with 39 points – his seventh 30-point game in his last nine outings – going 15-for-25 from the floor, including 5-of-8 from beyond the arc, adding a game-high 10 assists, eight boards and a steal.
Larry Nance Jr. notched double-figures in his fifth straight game and doubled-up for the third time in his last five – tallying 13 points and 13 boards, going 6-of-10 from the floor, adding three assists and a game-high four steals.
Rodney Hood was the only other Cavaliers starter in double-figures, chipping in with 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting to go with two boards and a pair of steals.
Jeff Green, in his first game back after missing the previous three with a sore lower back, led all Cleveland reserves with 10 points, going 4-of-7 from the field.
The Cavaliers withstood a monster game from Nikola Jokic, who finished with 36 points on 12-of-14 shooting to go with 13 boards and a team-high six assists.
Still playing without the services of Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson, the Cavaliers were outdone on the boards, 51-35, in the paint, 54-44, and on second-chance opportunities, 23-9.
But unlike last Saturday’s contest at The Q, the Nuggets only hit 10 triples (to the Cavaliers’ 13) and committed 21 miscues to just 10 for Cleveland.
Rodney Hood chips in 15 to help the Wine & Gold snag the win in Denver.
Turning Point -- The Cavaliers were in charge for much of the night on Wednesday – netting 70 points and taking a 16-point lead before intermission.
The Nuggets continued to chip away through the third quarter and took their first lead of the night early in the fourth. Wilson Chandler gave them their biggest lead of the night, 96-93, on a three-pointer with 7:19 to play.
But Kyle Korver stopped the bleeding with a triple of his own on the Cavs’ next possession and Jeff Green gave Cleveland back the lead with a trifecta of his own on the next trip down with 6:19 remaining.
The Cavs didn’t trail the rest of the way.
By the Numbers – 30.6, 10.0, 9.6 … LeBron James’ scoring, rebounding and assist averages over his previous nine games – with three triple-doubles and two double-doubles in the mix.
Quotable – Larry Nance Jr., on what he saw from his team in Wednesday night’s win …
"Just a lot of resiliency. They threw their punches throughout this game – Jokic had a big night and a team like that, they can shoot. They threw their punches but we stayed tough mentally and physically and, obviously, we had a pretty good player making some shots at the end there.”Up Next -- Following Wednesday’s solid win over the Nuggets, the Wine & Gold’s extended roadie rolls on as the squad heads to Tinseltown for a pair – facing off against the Clippers on Friday night and the Lakers on Sunday. From there, it’s on to Phoenix where the Cavs take on Devin Booker and the Suns on Tuesday night. On Thursday, Cleveland travels to Portland where they’ll take on the Blazers before wrapping up the junket on St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago.