Nuggets Down Cavaliers
By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND — Gary Harris scored 32 points, Will Barton added 23 and the Denver Nuggets did most of their damage behind the 3-point arc in a 126-117 win over LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday night.
The Nuggets made 19 of 35 3-pointers, including three in the final 2:26, to hold off a second-half charge from the Cavs, who are struggling as they try to blend in four new players on the fly.
James finished with 25 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds — his 13th triple-double this season — but Cleveland’s lack of a dependable No. 2 scorer with Kevin Love out with a broken left hand continues to be a major problem.
More troublesome, though, is the Cavs’ defense or lack of it. Whenever Denver needed a big basket, the Nuggets got it by making the extra pass and exploiting holes in Cleveland’s defense.
J.R. Smith scored 19 points — all in the second half — in his return from a one-game suspension for throwing a bowl of soup on Cavs assistant coach Damon Jones. With Smith and James carrying the scoring load, the Cavs pulled within 115-114 with 2:40 left.
But the Nuggets came right back as Paul Millsap drilled a 3-pointer and Harris made two more from outside to put it away. Jamal Murray and Wilson Chandler added 16 points apiece for the Nuggets, who are 9-3 since Feb. 1.
Larry Nance Jr. gave the Cavs a needed lift in the second quarter with a vicious dunk.
Catching a pass on the baseline, Nance, who recently participated in the dunk contest during All-Star weekend, took one dribble, cocked his arm and posterized Mason Plumlee. The slam brought James and several other amazed Cavs onto the floor to celebrate.
The Nuggets, though, weren’t fazed.
Harris and Barton knocked down 3-pointers and Denver pushed its lead to 14 and was up 73-62 at halftime.
Nuggets: F Richard Jefferson received a warm ovation when the former Cav was introduced during a timeout in the first quarter. … Coach Mike Malone fondly recalled “a great five-year” ride (2005-2010) as an assistant with the Cavs. Malone was with James early in the superstar’s career and believes his commitment is often looked. Malone still marvels that James took the Cavs to the Finals in 2007 with a group of “castoffs,” and he’s equally impressed about the man he’s become. “Now you look at LeBron off the court and his maturity and his voice and everything that he stands for,” Malone said. “It’s really remarkable.” … Denver will play 11 of 15 games in March on road.
Cavaliers: F Jeff Green missed his second game this week with a sore lower back, and coach Tyronn Lue said it’s possible the 32-year-old could be out even longer. Green underwent an MRI on Saturday that did not reveal any structural damage. Green’s absence creates a hole with Cleveland’s second unit, and Lue is counting on Hill and Clarkson to pick up the slack. … Love again worked out with Cleveland’s coaches at shootaround. The All-Star could return earlier than the projected eight weeks, but Lue isn’t sure if that’s the case. “It would be a good thing if it was,” he said.
ROCKETS 123, CELTICS 120
HOUSTON (AP) — Eric Gordon scored 29 points off the bench, James Harden had 26 points and 10 assists, and Houston outlasted Boston to extend its winning streak to a season-high 15 games.
Houston trailed by six before using a 10-2 run, with the last five points coming from Trevor Ariza, to take a 117-115 lead with 1:16 remaining. Ariza made a 3-pointer before stealing the ball from Kyrie Irving and finishing with a basket on the other end to cap the run.
Al Horford missed shots on Boston’s next two possessions before Chris Paul made two free throws with 15 seconds left to push the lead to four. Irving made a layup seconds later, but Harden made one of two free throws with 7.4 seconds left to make it 120-117.
Irving and Paul hit two free throws each before Irving made one and purposely missed the second with 2.8 seconds left. Gordon made one of two free throws to make it 123-120 with 2.3 seconds remaining, and Marcus Smart’s 3-point attempt bounced off the rim at the buzzer.
LAKERS 116, SPURS 112
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Lonzo Ball hit a career-best six 3-pointers, Julius Randle had 25 points and Los Angeles rallied in the final two minutes to beat San Antonio.
Ball made three shots from beyond the arc in the final three minutes to give the Lakers their fifth straight victory. Ball finished with 18 points, and Isaiah Thomas added 21 points.
The Spurs lost their second straight game in which they never trailed until the final two minutes.
Ball’s fourth 3-pointer cut San Antonio’s lead to 105-104, and Randle made two free throws to give Los Angeles its first lead at 106-105 with 1:59 remaining. After a jumper by Pau Gasol, Ball hit another 3 to give the Lakers a 109-107 advantage with 1:15 remaining. After Gasol made two free throws to tie it, Ball hit another 3 to stun the Spurs’ fans and electrify a large Lakers’ contingent.
HEAT 105, PISTONS 96
MIAMI (AP) — Kelly Olynyk and Josh Richardson each scored 17 points, and Miami enhanced its playoff hopes with a win over Detroit.
James Johnson scored 14 points, Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow each had 13 and Dwyane Wade added 11 for Miami. Hassan Whiteside grabbed 19 rebounds for the Heat, who won for only the fourth time in their last 13 games.
Blake Griffin scored 31 points and Andre Drummond finished with 22 points and 18 rebounds for the Pistons, who were playing their fifth game in seven nights — four of those on the road.
MAGIC 107, GRIZZLIES 100
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Evan Fournier broke a tie on a long 3-pointer with 22.5 seconds left, and Orlando rookie Jonathan Isaac helped preserve the lead with his third block of the game in a win that stretched Memphis’ losing streak to 13 games.
Fournier added two free throws with 8.2 seconds remaining to finish with 19 points. Nikola Vucevic also scored 19 for Orlando, which had six players in double figures.
Ben McLemore scored a game-high 20 for Memphis, which has the NBA’s longest skid of the season. Jarell Martin added 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Memphis led 84-77 early in the fourth quarter, the biggest lead for either team until Orlando (20-43) matched it in the final seconds.