Harris, Barton lead Nuggets' rout of Cavs
Harris, Barton lead Nuggets' rout of Cavs
- Harris, Barton lead Nuggets' rout of Cavs
Published On: Thu, Mar 23
Dec 22, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Will Barton (5) and guard Gary Harris (14) react during the first half against the Los Angeles Lakers at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
DENVER -- Nikola Jokic has dazzled teams with his passing ability, but Wednesday he showed he can be tough around the basket with an impressive move on the best player in the world.
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It was one of many the Denver Nuggets highlights in a rout of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Jokic finished with 16 points, including a power move on LeBron James that all but sealed the win, and also had 10 rebounds as Denver beat the Cavaliers 126-113.
Gary Harris scored 21 points, Will Barton had 20 and Wilson Chandler returned from missing four games to score 18 for Denver, which blew out both NBA Finals teams at home. The Nuggets (34-37) beat Golden State by 22 on Feb. 13.
"They played an exceptional game," James said. "I didn't think our physicality was where it needed to be with how well they moved bodies and moved the ball. They beat us pretty good."
James prides himself on toughness -- "I always bring toughness to the game," he said -- but even he couldn't match Jokic when the young center got him on the post. Jokic backed down the forward and shook off James' physical defense to score on a soft hook late in the third quarter.
"It was a mismatch for us and I just tried to score," Jokic said. "I didn't think that was him. I feel really good on that block, I'm confident in my shooting and my post moves. I feel really good."
The Nuggets got a much-needed win after dropping two close games to Houston that saw their lead for the eighth spot in the Western Conference shrink to a game over Portland. Kenneth Faried had his best game after missing nine with back spasms, finishing with 17 points and nine rebounds in 19 minutes.
Nine of his points came in the final 5:14 of the third quarter when Cleveland trimmed a 20-point lead to five.
"Kenneth Faried was phenomenal," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. "A lot of guys shined tonight."
Kyrie Irving led Cleveland with 33 points, James scored 18 and Deron Williams had 19 off the bench.
Cleveland's lead over Boston for the best record in the Eastern Conference is down to one game. The Cavaliers (46-24) have a game left at Boston on April 8. They hope to shore up their suddenly shaky defense that has let three straight opponents shoot better than 50 percent.
"We didn't play inspired basketball. Very rarely do you see that from us," Kevin Love said. "In the third quarter, we played hard but the rotations weren't there, help defenders weren't there. Too many offensive rebounds, too many extra possessions."
Cleveland didn't make the Nuggets feel uncomfortable, either. They finished with a season-low six turnovers and had 35 assists.
"We just got to be better, we've got to be more physical," said James, who was a minus-30. "We've got to take the one-on-one challenge more seriously."
The Cavaliers are at full health after a season of juggling the lineup with long-term injuries to Love and J.R. Smith, but it didn't help against the fired-up Nuggets on Wednesday.
"It's good to have everybody back and we'll try and finish these last 13 games getting some consistency and also finishing the season healthy," Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said before the game.
Cleveland fell behind by 20 in the first half when Barton and Jamal Murray combined for six 3-pointers and 28 points. The Cavaliers, behind Irving's 19 points, cut the deficit to 73-59 at the break.
Denver led 82-66 when James stepped up with a couple of dunks to lead a 15-4 run. The Nuggets worked the lead back to 15 points on the strength of two Faried dunks, and started the fourth with a 9-2 run to lead 110-92 and coast from there.
"We've been playing with a certain type of confidence the last few weeks and I feel like we're clicking right now," said Harris, who is averaging 20.3 points over the last six games.
Denver will need to carry that effort if it wants to hold off the Trail Blazers for the last playoff spot.
"We were able to get this one so the next one is going to be just as important," Harris said of Friday's game at Indiana.
NOTES: Nuggets F Darrell Arthur was active after missing four games with left knee soreness. He entered the game in the final minute after the outcome was decided. ... Cleveland G Kyle Korver returned after missing seven games with left foot soreness. He came off the bench and scored nine points in 19 minutes and was 3-for-9 from the field. ... Nuggets F Danilo Gallinari missed his fourth game with a left knee bone bruise.
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