The Denver Nuggets invaded Cleveland on Saturday night as both teams put their winning streaks on the line. The Nuggets, after blowing out the Bulls in their last game, were winners of eight straight. Meanwhile, the resurgent Cavaliers, who have played some great basketball lately, were in search of their fourth consecutive victory on Saturday night.
Before Saturday’s game, Denver Head Coach George Karl said that a key would be holding Cleveland’s tough reserve unit in check and continue to shoot well from the field on the road. Luckily for Karl, the Nuggets were able to both as they pushed their winning streak to nine games in its 111-103 victory.
“I was happy of our effort and the results we got from it,” Karl said. “The Cavaliers are a good, young team and will be making noise in the years coming. This was a very good win for us.”
The Nuggets got off to a quick 8-0 lead thanks two three-pointers by Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari, as well as a layup by Kosta Koufos. While the Nuggets prepared for Kyrie Irving leading into the game, it was another one of the young Cavaliers who kept the game within reach early on.
Alonzo Gee, who averaged 10.2 points per game coming into the contest, scored 15 of the Cavaliers first 17 points in the first six minutes of the game. A quick timeout by Karl took Gee out of his rhythm as he only scored five more points the rest of the game.
“I was more upset with our defense than I was with the kid making shots,” Karl said of Gee. “He made some tough ones though so I knew I had to call a timeout to cool him down.”
After losing at the end of the first quarter, the Nuggets took a six-point lead going into the half and never looked back. As usual with the Nuggets, the scoring was spread around as Gallinari led all Nuggets with 19 points.
Kenneth Faried, who stressed the importance of this game during morning shoot around, contributed 17 points of his own as he was one of eight Nuggets in double-figures.
“This was a huge game for us,” Faried said. “We both came in riding high, and they fought until the end. We need to play better however if we are going to beat the Celtics tomorrow.”
While Irving was contributing in the stat book, he led all scorers with 26 points, he ran into foul trouble in the early third which allowed the Nuggets to take advantage and take an 11-point lead going into the fourth.
“I think it definitely hurt our chances,” Irving said. “When I came back in, it was almost too little too late.”
As aforementioned, Karl wanted to hold the Cavaliers bench in check, but also preached the importance of having his reserve unit outwit the Cleveland backups. The Nuggets were able to outscored the Cavaliers bench 40 to 36, but the real difference of the game was the 46-38 differential on the boards.
“I loved the hustle from our guys,” Karl said. “Eight in double-figures, we were rebounding the ball and our reserves played big for us down the stretch.”
The Nuggets as a team shot 50 percent from the field, 35.3 percent from behind the arc and 73.5 percent from the charity stripe.
The Nuggets (33-18) will travel to Boston tomorrow to take on the Celtics. That is, if they can get in thanks to Winter Storm Nemo.
“Man I’m hoping that we can,” swingman Andre Iguodala joked. “Hopefully they can open up a special section just for us.”
Karl agrees with Faried’s comment that the team needs to improve all around if they are going to win tomorrow and that along with Los Angeles, Boston is one of his favorite places to play.
“I look at Boston and Los Angeles as the top teams as far as prestige go. I’d prefer to be playing in the old Boston Garden, but the new one is nice too,” Karl said. “I”m hoping the snow isn’t too bad and we can get in there.”