Cavaliers fall to Nuggets from long range 115-109  
            BY TIM SHIRER
(CLEVELAND, OH) - Thursday night was the start of the unofficial second half of the NBA season. The Cleveland Cavaliers entered the game with a record of 38-23 (25-6 home) with 21 games remaining they are fourth in the Eastern conference two and a half games up on the fifth place Brooklyn Nets. The visitor to Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on Thursday night was the Denver Nuggets who entered 41-14 (14-14 road). The game was the first game for Cleveland since the Kevin Love buyout which in essence made him a free agent and the nine-year Cav signed with the Miami Heat. The Nuggets lead the all-time series 52-43, but in Cleveland (Richfield Coliseum, RMFH) the Cavs hold the edge 28-18. The game was a battle but in the end Denver was a the better team as they edged the Cavs 115-109.

Before either team scored the Nuggets turned the ball over twice and each team committed a foul. After the sluggish start the two team traded baskets with the Cavs taking a 6-5 lead with 9:32 left on a two handed dunk by Evan Mobley who had four early points. The problem for Cleveland was by the eight minute mark of the first quarter Jarrett Allen and Isaac Okoro were both on the bench in foul trouble with two apiece. The Nuggets took a 12-10 lead with 7:23 left after Kentavious Caldwell-Pope drove the lane and scored and also got fouled on the play and converted the free throw. The Nuggets extended the lead to 21-12 with 5:38 left in the first period when Jama; Murray drained a long three pointer. After the Nuggets built the lead to 24-14. Caldwell-Pope committed a clear path foul on Darius Garland. Garland converted one of two free throws and the Cavs got possession of the ball. Mobley drove the lane hit a hook shot and was fouled. After Mobley hit the free throw the Nugget lead was down six at 24-18 with 3:53 remaining in the first. One possession later the Cavs cut the lead to five 26-21 on a three by Mobley with 3:18 left on the first quarter clock. After the Cavs forced the Nuggets to have a couple of turnovers Cleveland cut the Denver lead to 31-26 at the end of the first period. Mobley led all scorers with 14 points. Nikola Jokic and Murray both had eight for Denver. The rebound edge favored the Nuggets by a huge gap 16-9. The Cavs did benefit from four Nugget turnovers when they turned them into seven points. The foul trouble by Allen and Okoro really hampered the Cavs in the first 12 minutes.  

The Cavs cut the Nugget lead to 32-30 with 9:56 left in the half when Caris LeVert hit Allen under the basket and Allen dropped it in. During a second quarter timeout the Cavaliers honored Cavs great and current broadcaster Brad Daugherty for being the first African-American NASCAR owner to win the Daytona 500. Daugherty owns JTG racing which has one car driven by Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. who won the Daytona 500 on February 19. The Cavs cut the lead to 41-40 with 4:31 left in the half when LeVert drove the lane. They came all the way back and tied the game 43-43 with 4:02 left when Donovan Mitchell hit a long three on a nice assist by LeVert. Then took the lead 47-45 with 3:01 left when Mitchell hit Mobley in the paint. Mobley now had 16 first half points. The two teams traded baskets for the remaining of the first half which including a dunk by Mitchell on a beautiful pass from Garland that brought the RMFH crowd to their feet. With :04.8 left in the first half Garland was Vlatko Cancar. Garland hit both free throws to give the Cavs a 57-56 lead at the halftime intermission. Mobley continued to lead all scorers in the first half with 16 points. Michael Porter, Jr., and Caldwell-Pope each had 10 points to lead Denver. The Cavs outrebounded the Nuggets 15-12 in the second period, but still trailed in the game 28-22. Turnovers were costly for Denver as they had eight in the first 24 minutes resulting in 6 Cavalier points. The Cavaliers did a nice job handling the ball only turning it over five times resulting in four Denver points. The Cavaliers also moved the ball nicely in the first half as they had 16 assists and eight of the nine player who played scored. LeVert had five assists, Mitchell, and Garland each had three.

The Cavs extended the lead to 62-58 with 10:50 left on the clock when Mobley hit a three from the behind the stripe. Denver scored the next five points to regain the lead 63-62 with 9:52 left in the third when Caldwell-Pope hit a jumper. The game was tied when Mobley was fouled by Cancar, he hit both free throws giving him 21 points and the Cavs a 68-66 lead with 8:09 left. After the Nuggets turned the ball over the Cavs extended the lead to 70-66 on a fast break layup by Garland with 7:53 remaining. Mobley continued to have a nice game after he was fouled by Jokic he hit two free throws giving the Cavs their biggest lead to that point at 72-67. On the next possession after Denver failed to score Mobley made a statement slamming the ball home hard for 24th and 25th points of the game and extending the Cleveland lead to 74-67 with 7:00 left in the third. The Nuggets cut the lead to 78-75 with 5:25 left in the third when Porter, Jr. hit a three. The Nuggets tied the game with 4:09 left when Porter, Jr. hit another three, his fourth of the game and the score was 80-80. The Cavs regained the lead 86-84 on a driving layup around Jokic by Mobley with 2:05 left. Mobley had 31 points. It seemed the only thing that could keep Mobley from breaking his personal career high in points of 38 were the officials as he picked up his fourth foul with :13.7 eft in the third period. After Denver closed two within two after a couple free throws Mitchell drove down deposited a layup that circled the rim before falling and was fouled on the play. He hit the free throw and the Cavs had a 91-89 lead after three when Reggie Jackson hit a buzzer beater three ending the period. Mobley led everyone with 31 after three. Jokic and Porter, Jr. both had 17 for the Nuggets. The battle of the boards was now tied 33-33 as the Cavs out did the Nuggets in the third 11-5 on the glass. The nuggets turned the ball over four more times in the third leading to six Cavs points and a total of 12 TO’s for the Nuggets resulting in 12 Cavs points through three.

The Nuggets regained the lead on a Caldwell-Pope three just 28 second into the fourth giving Denver a 92-91 lead. The Cavs regained the lead 94-92 at the 10:41 mark when Mitchell hit his first three of the game. Mitchell then drove the paint and was fouled just 28 second later to extend the Cavs lead to 97-92. The Nuggets scored the next seven points capped off by a Jeff Green dunk with 7:19 remaining. The Nuggets lead was short lived however as Garland drained a three on the next Cavs possession and Cleveland took the lead back 100-99 with 6:59 left on the game clock. Lamar Stevens then extended the lead to 103-99 when he was fouled driving to the basket which went in and then converted the free throw with 6:27 left. The Nuggets regained the lead 106-105 with 4:43 left when Porter, Jr. hit another three pointer. They extended the lead to 109-105 when Jokic hit a three with 4:05 left on the clock. The Cavs cut the deficit to two points when Garland hit two free throws with 3:54 left. But the Nuggets responded on a basket by Porter, Jr. extending the lead to 111-107 with 3:26 left. Garland answered that with a jumper in the paint with 2:38 left cutting the Denver lead to 111-109. Being unable to defend the three which was a problem during a stretch in January was haunting the Cavs again as Porter, Jr. hit Denver’s 17th three of the game with 2:15 left putting Denver up 114-109. The Nuggets shot 55% (10 of 18) in the second half which sealed the Cavs fate as Denver prevailed 114-109. The Cavaliers were held scoreless in the last 2:49 of the game.

With the loss Cleveland falls to 38-24 and 25-7 at RMFH and remain in fourth place in the East two games ahead of the Nets.

Mobley led everyone in scoring in the game with 31 in a losing effort. Garland and Mitchell had 22 points apiece. Porter, Jr. led the Nuggets with 25 points including six three pointers. Jokic also had 24 points and a triple double as he had a game high 18 rebounds and a game high 13 assists. Another factor besides the fact the Cavaliers could not defend the three point shot in the second half was that they struggled shooting from long range in the game shooting a miserable 23% (6 of 26) in the game. Denver also outrebounded the Cavs in the game and 47-41 and down the stretch in the fourth quarter 14-8. 

Next up for the Cavs are the Atlanta Hawks in Atlanta on Friday night at State Farm Arena at 7:30 pm. The Hawks have been in a free fall losing six of their last ten and fired their coach Nate Mc Millan on Tuesday replacing him with assistant Joe Prunty. 
Follow us on Twitter @SportsSentinel Check out our Cavaliers fan page Taitville 
​POSTED 02/23/2023 21:44
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