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No team puts up first quarter points like the Nuggets – and for the second time in a two-week span, Denver did what they do best, jumping all over the Wine & Gold early and coasting home from there.
In the February 10 meeting in Denver, the Nuggets drilled their first nine shots from the floor. On Friday night in Cleveland, they drilled their first 12 – taking an early double-digit lead, weathering a pair of rallies and pulling away late to hand J.B. Bickerstaff’s squad its ninth straight loss, a 120-103 decision at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
Jamal Murray going off for a career-high 50 points didn’t help the Cavs cause much either.
Murray was about as close to unstoppable as a player can get – hitting on a jaw-dropping 21-of-25 shots from the floor, including 8-of-10 from beyond the arc. The sixth-year man from Kentucky, and one of the heroes of last summer’s Playoff Bubble in Orlando, became the first player in NBA history to score 50 points without attempting a single free throw.
The Cavaliers didn’t have a bad night offensively. All five starters scored in double-figures and, as a team, Cleveland handed out 30 assists on 39 made field goals.
But the Nuggets, who dropped 133 points on Cleveland in that February 10 meeting, shredded the Wine & Gold on the defensive end. They shot 67 percent from the floor and scored 69 points in the first half; 58 percent on the night.
Collin Sexton led the Cavaliers with 23 points on 8-for-17 scoring, going 3-of-7 from deep and 4-of-6 from the stripe, adding four assists in the loss.
Jarrett Allen continued his strong play – turning in his third straight double-double, fourth in his last five games, with 20 points and a team-high 10 boards, going 8-of-9 from the floor and adding four assists, a block and a steal.
Darius Garland and Isaac Okoro finished with 14 points apiece.
Garland was 6-of-15 from the floor to go with five assists and a game-high three steals. Okoro was 5-of-10 from the field, including 3-of-6 from long-distance, adding three boards, two assists and a steal.
Cedi Osman was in double-figures as well – finishing with 11 points and team-high seven assists.
Aside from Murray’s explosion, the Nuggets also got a 16-point, 12-rebound, 10-assist triple-double from Nikola Jokic, his seventh of the season, and saw Michael Porter Jr. score 21 of his 22 points before intermission.
Miss any of the action? Find all the highlights and photos in the Game Tracker.
Darius Garland drives a lobs a pass upstairs to Jarret Allen who catches and dunks with two hands early in the first quarter against the Nuggets.
Despite the Nuggets scorching start, the Cavaliers – who still shot 50 percent from the floor before intermission – managed to stay with Denver through the early part of the game.
Collin Sexton’s runner with 8:37 to play in the first half got the Cavalier back to within four after trailing by a dozen. But Denver answered with an 8-1 run to get some breathing room and closed the second quarter on an 18-8 run.
The Cavaliers got within single digits just once on Damyean Dotson’s runner late in the third. Denver answered that run with a 10-4 run to end the period and essentially put the game on ice.
By the Numbers - 23.3 … points per game that Collin Sexton has averaged in the four contests since Denver held him to a season-low four points in the first matchup – topping the 20-point plateau in each.
Sexton has now scored at least 20 points in 18 of his 25 outings so far this season, including five of his last six outings.
"We have to learn. If we don’t learn we won’t get any better. And again, we took some steps and did some positive things. You go back to the 30 assists. Offensively, we were engaged and trying to do the things that we wanted to do sharing the ball. We have to focus on improvement and get to a point to where we’ve improved so much that the results will be what we like them to be."
Enjoy the best broadcast calls of the night from Cavaliers Radio Network's Tim Alcorn and Rafa Hernandez-Brito from Power 89.1.
After falling to the Nuggets at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on Friday night, the Wine & Gold still have a home-heavy remainder of the schedule to close out the first half.
On Sunday evening, the Cavs welcome the Oklahoma City Thunder to town, followed by a back-to-back visit from the Hawks and Rockets on Tuesday and Wednesday night, respectively. Next weekend, Cleveland visits Philly to wrap up the month of February and travel to Houston to begin March.
The Cavs wrap up the season’s first half on March 3 with a visit from the Pacers.