Denver Nuggets 87, Cleveland Cavaliers 99: Three Takeaways

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyroNBA

A continuation of struggles on the offensive end caught up to the Denver Nuggets Monday night as they dropped the opener of a four-game week to the Cleveland Cavaliers, 99-87. 22 turnovers and cold shooting plagued Denver’s offense.

A cold start on the offensive end sunk Denver in the opening quarter as Cleveland took control of the game, building a 22-15 lead. The Nuggets opened the game 6-of-15 from the field, 1-of-5 from beyond the arc, and ultimately committed five turnovers in the opening frame. Cleveland took a 29-24 lead into the second quarter. Rookie Bones Hyland made his NBA debut late in the frame to the delight of the Ball Arena crowd.

Hyland got the crowd going with five consecutive points early in the second quarter as Denver battled back. After the Nuggets cut the deficit to just two points, Cleveland used a 9-1 to regain momentum and ultimately took a 50-46 lead into the halftime break. Nikola Jokić finished the first half with a double-double of 15 points and 12 rebounds.

Cleveland extended the lead to double digits to open the second half as Denver struggled to take care of the ball. The Nuggets used a 10-2 run fueled by a couple 3-pointers to get back into the game, cutting the Cavaliers’ lead to 64-61 near the halfway point of the quarter. The Cavaliers slightly extended the lead to 75-70 heading into the final frame.

Once again, Cleveland built the lead back up to double digits early in the fourth quarter as Denver struggled to get stops and take care of the ball. An 18-7 run to open the final frame gave Cleveland a 93-77 lead with just under 6 minutes remaining, and Denver was never able to get back into the game.

Here are three takeaways from Monday’s loss.

Cold shooting sinks Denver

Monday’s game was not a pretty viewing experience for those who enjoy quality offense. The Nuggets were cold from beyond the arc from the opening tip and ultimately finished 9-of-38 from downtown in the loss.

For a team that was also outscored in the paint (56-46) and at the free throw line, Denver really needed shots to fall from deep to pull of the win to open the week.

Dominance on the boards for the MVP

Monday’s game continued a trend for Jokić, who has been gobbling rebounds at an elite rate through the first three games of the season. After grabbing 29 combined in the first two games, the Serbian big man set a new season-high with 19 rebounds against Cleveland.

However, the reigning MVP didn’t just grab rebounds all night. Jokić also fueled Denver’s offense with 24 points in his 35 minutes of action. Unfortunately, no other Nugget finished with more than 12 points in the loss as Denver struggled to find a rhythm offensively.

Turnovers continue to be an issue

A major takeaway from Denver’s first two games of the season was the lack of ball security on the offensive end of the floor. Unfortunately for the Nuggets, that carried into Monday’s game as Denver committed 22 turnovers in the loss.

Those turnovers led directly to 32 points for the Cavaliers, which helped them on a night where they also struggled to find a rhythm from beyond the arc (7-of-25). With games against the Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks coming up this week, Denver will need to take care of the ball to pull of victories against 2021 playoff teams.

Denver is right back in action Tuesday night against the Jazz (8 p.m. MT, TNT).

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