Normally, scoring 117 points would result in a win for the Cleveland Cavaliers. This was not one of those nights.
At home Saturday against the Denver Nuggets, the Cavaliers fell 126-117 for their second straight loss. Denver led by as many as 15 points before the Cavs got as close as 115-114 before a final Denver run sealed Cleveland’s loss.
LeBron James posted his 12th triple-double of the season with a 25-point, 15-assist, 10-rebound line. J.R. Smith, in return to the starting lineup after being suspended for one game, scored 19 points — all of which came in the second half. Gary Harris led Denver with 32 points, 18 of which came on three-pointers.
Ex-Cavalier Richard Jefferson made a 15 minute cameo for the Nuggerts, finishing with four points.
Denver came out of the gates strong on offense, outscoring Cleveland 37-31 in the opening quarter and 73-62 in the first half while leading by as many as 14. By 3:23 in the third quarter, the Nuggets had their biggest lead of 15 points before the Cavs ripped off a 13-4 run to end the quarter. Cleveland made its push despite James scoring zero points in the third.
With 2:40 to play, James pushed the ball up the floor off of his 10th rebound, drew a foul and went to line. He made both free throws to bring the Cavs within one, but the Nuggets responded with a Paul Millsap three-pointer to go back up by four points. Smith missed two three-pointers in one possession on the Cavs’ next time down, leading into Harris hitting a three-pointer with 1:46 to go to put the Nuggets up by seven. A Wilson Chandler dunk with 1:16 to go and another Harris three with 52.8 seconds to go were the Nuggets’ finishing blows. Denver finished its night shooting 54.3 percent on three-pointers on 35 attempts.
The high point for Cleveland may have come in the first half when Larry Nance Jr. dunked on Mason Plumlee and brought Quicken Loans Arena to its feet. Nance finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.
The Cavs next play on Monday against the Pistons in the final game of their current homestand. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.