CLEVELAND — Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ best performance of the season brought an end to the Denver Nuggets’ seven-game winning streak.
Irving scored 23 points and the Cavaliers won back-to-back games for the first time this season with a 98-88 victory over Denver Wednesday night.
Tristan Thompson had a career-high 21 rebounds and 17 points for Cleveland, which handed Denver its first loss since Nov. 18. The Nuggets played the third game of a six-game road trip, which began with a 14-point win in Toronto on Sunday and a 24-point victory in Brooklyn on Tuesday.
“They just whupped us tonight,” Denver coach Brian Shaw said. “They looked like the fresher team and they were quicker to the punch.”
Randy Foye led Denver with 16 points, while J.J. Hickson had 15 points and 11 rebounds, but the Nuggets couldn’t contend with Cleveland’s balanced attack. Anderson Varejao scored a season-high 18 points and had 13 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who recorded their largest margin of victory this season.
While the Nuggets have been one the league’s hottest teams, the Cavaliers have struggled to adjust to new coach Mike Brown’s system. Cleveland already has lost seven games by double figures, but a win over Chicago on Saturday and its latest victory produced some confidence.
“Winning is the thing that cures everything,” Brown said.
“We came out aggressive on both ends of the floor and that’s what coach Brown has been preaching,” Irving said. “It’s paying dividends. It starts with the way we practice and carries over into games.”
Denver trailed by 12 points in the second quarter, but finished the first half on a 10-2 run and cut the lead to two early in the third period. The Nuggets got no closer, however, as the Cavaliers stretched the lead to double figures. The margin reached 13 early in the fourth.
Andrew Bynum, coming off his best game of the season, had 14 points and seven rebounds in 20 minutes. The 7-footer had 20 points, 10 rebounds, and five blocked shots Saturday against the Bulls in a 97-93 win. Bynum, Thompson and Varejao combined for 41 of Cleveland’s 58 rebounds.
“They were monsters in the pick-and-roll,” Brown said. “They were monsters on the glass. They were monsters around the rim. It was awesome to watch.”
Thompson had nine rebounds in nine minutes in the first quarter. He had 11 points and 13 rebounds in the first half.
“Tristan Thompson had his season averages at halftime,” Shaw said. “This was a good lesson for our bigs. When you’re playing against bigger guys like him and Bynum, you’ve got to put a body on them.”
Despite being 6-12, the Cavaliers haven’t fallen too far from the pack in the Eastern Conference, where only Indiana and Miami are over .500.
TRAIL BLAZERS 111, THUNDER 104
PORTLAND, Ore. — LaMarcus Aldridge had a season-high 38 points and added 13 rebounds and Portland snapped Oklahoma City’s eight-game winning streak.
Nicolas Batum hit a 3-pointer with 29.9 seconds to go that all but sealed it for Portland, which has won 14 of its last 15 games. The win also snapped Oklahoma City’s seven-game winning streak against the Blazers.
Kevin Durant finished with 33 for the Thunder, who were playing the second game of a back-to-back after defeating Sacramento 97-95 Tuesday night.
Batum and Lillard both added 14 points for the Blazers, who were coming off a 106-102 victory over Indiana on Monday. Portland is 8-1 at home this season.
HAWKS 107, CLIPPERS 97
ATLANTA — Kyle Korver tied the NBA record for consecutive games with a 3-pointer and scored a season-high 23 points in the Hawks’ victory over the Clippers.
Korver, returning from a bruised rib that sidelined him the last four games, tied Dana Barros’ NBA 18-year-old record by hitting a 3-pointer in his 89th straight game. Barros set the mark during stints with Philadelphia and Boston from Dec. 23, 1994, to Jan. 10, 1996.
He made his first attempt in the game’s first minute and finished 6 for 9 beyond the arc.
Paul Millsap finished with 25 points and Al Horford added 21 to help the Hawks snap a two-game losing streak.
Blake Griffin scored 24 points and Chris Paul had 19 points and 11 assists as the Clippers lost their second straight.
SUNS 97, ROCKETS 88
HOUSTON — Eric Bledsoe had 20 points and seven assists to lead Phoenix over the Rockets.
PJ Tucker added 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting with six rebounds.
Channing Frye had 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting and grabbed six rebounds, and Goran Dragic chipped in 19 points on 6-of-11 shooting for the Suns, who shot 45.6 percent from the field, including 45.8 percent from behind the arc.
Dwight Howard had 15 points and 18 rebounds, Aaron Brooks added 17 points and six assists, and Omri Casspi had 14 points and seven rebounds for the Rockets, who lost their second straight game.
James Harden finished with 14 points, hitting 3 of 17 from the field and going 0 for 10 from behind the arc. Patrick Beverley had 12 points and eight rebounds.
PACERS 95, JAZZ 86
SALT LAKE CITY — Paul George scored 19 points and Indiana returned to its defensive ways to defeat the Jazz in Utah for the first time since an 84-60 victory on Nov. 29, 2005.
Lance Stephenson scored 15 points, Luis Scola had 14 and Roy Hibbert added 13 points for the Pacers.
Indiana outscored the Jazz 27-19 in the fourth quarter and parlayed 14 Utah turnovers in 20 points.
Gordon Hayward’s 3-pointer cut the Indiana lead to 79-76 before the Pacers scored nine straight points, capped by West’s 20-foot jumper that just beat the shot clock, and never looked back.
Derrick Favors led Utah with 22 points and 13 rebounds and Enes Kanter had 20 points and 10 boards for the Jazz, who had won three of their last four games.
MAVERICKS 100, PELICANS 97
NEW ORLEANS — Dirk Nowitzki scored 11 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter, and the Mavericks beat the Pelicans 100-97 Wednesday night.
Nowitzki gave Dallas the lead with a free throw to make the score 98-97 with 32.3 seconds left. He then got a piece of Eric Gordon’s driving floater, grabbed the rebound and hit two more free throws with 8 seconds left.
The Pelicans’ Ryan Anderson missed an open 3-pointer that would have tied it with 2 seconds left.
Reserve Vince Carter had 15 points for Dallas and Monta Ellis added 14 points.
PISTONS 105, BUCKS 98
MILWAUKEE — Andre Drummond had 24 points and 19 rebounds and the Pistons rode a strong second-half performance to beat the Bucks.
Greg Monroe contributed 18 points and 17 rebounds for the Pistons, who had three players with double-doubles and five score 15 or more points.
Ersan Ilyasov scored a season-high 22 points and had 10 rebounds to lead the Bucks, who have lost 13 of 14. Khris Middleton added 14 points for Milwaukee.
By wire sources