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Nuggets Bench Shines in Win Against Cavaliers
Playing on the second night of a back-to-back on the road and coming off an exhilarating overtime win, it took the Denver Nuggets a while to get started against the Cleveland Cavaliers Thursday.
Denver, No. 2 in the Western Conference standings, fell behind by 12 points after one but heated up in the second, when it outscored Cleveland by 20 points on its way to a 110-91 win. The Nuggets pulled away from the Cavaliers, utilizing a lineup consisting of starter Jamal Murray and reserves Malik Beasley, Trey Lyles, Mason Plumlee and Juancho Hernangomez to take an eight-point lead into the half.
The 6-9, 230-pound Hernangomez tallied a season-high 23 points to go along with four rebounds and two blocks in his finest performance as a pro since he netted 27 in a win against the Warriors two seasons ago.
“I just tried to help the team,” said Hernangomez, who went 5 of 8 from 3-point range after not playing at the Wednesday night against Chicago. “Today was a really tough game (on a) back-to-back. We played overtime yesterday. This is our team. We have a deep team. Everybody on the bench can help the team. We got the win today and can go home to Denver.”
The Nuggets reserves combined for 59 points.
Lyles scored 12 and snatched down eight rebounds. Plumlee had his second-straight double-digit scoring night with 11 points on 5-for-8 shooting while adding six rebounds and three assists.
Paul Millsap turned in his third-straight solid offensive performance, going for 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting after struggling from the field earlier in the season. Gary Harris had 14 points and Jamal Murray chimed in with 10. After logging double-doubles in six of Denver’s first seven contests, the Nuggets needed just four points from star center Nikola Jokic. The big fella still chipped in with six rebounds, three assists and a steal.
Rated fourth in defensive rating, the Nuggets limited the Cavs to 41.8 percent shooting, including 27.8 from 3-point range to hold their opponent to under 100 points for the fourth time this season.
“There was one stretch where we had nine stops in a row and that enabled us to go into halftime with the lead,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “We knew this team was a great offensive rebounding team and that was giving us some trouble, but I thought we did an OK job of limiting their second-chance points in that second half.”
Jordan Clarkson was Cleveland’s leading scorer with 17 in 20 minutes from his backup spot. Cedi Osman (13), Tristan Thompson and George Hill (10) also finished in double-figures in scoring for Cleveland, which has won just one of its eight contests this season.
The victory improved the Nuggets record to 7-1 overall, 3-1 on the road, their best start since the 1976-77 season.
“The minute we start thinking we’ve done something is we’re going to set ourselves up for failure,” Malone said. “We’ve gotten to this point by working hard, by getting better every day. If we continue to do that throughout the course of the season, we’ll put ourselves in a position to have real success, and for us the only real success is gonna be measured by the postseason.”
The Nuggets host the Utah Jazz at 6 p.m. MT Saturday. That game will be broadcasted live on Altitude TV and streamed on AltitudeNOW.