DENVER – Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James were the headliners, but Allen Iverson and J.R. Smith stole the show.
Iverson scored a season-high 37 points and Smith added 29 to help the Denver Nuggets beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 122-100 on Monday night.
“They didn`t steal my spotlight,” said Anthony, who had 22 points and nine rebounds. “They did what they were supposed to do. They took advantage of the defense that they threw at us.”
Iverson set the tone early with his sharp shooting. He had 18 points at halftime, when the Nuggets took a 58-43 lead. He came out firing in the second half, scoring 11 points in the first six minutes, including two 3-poiners, to push Denver`s lead to 78-51.
“I got into a rhythm in the second half,” said Iverson, who finished 14-for-20 from the field and added eight assists. “The basket looked like an ocean; I was throwing rocks in. It feels good when you catch a rhythm like that.”
LeBron James led Cleveland with 27 points, but the Nuggets were able to contain the rest of the Cavaliers.
“Even though LeBron had a great game, his great game came from getting fouled,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “We took away what we wanted to take away, him making other people better.”
The Cavaliers struggled offensively. They shot 41.9 percent from the field and were 21-for-38 from the foul line.
“I`m not too disappointed,” James said. “We did a lot of things that we wanted to do differently. We didn`t execute offensively or defensively. I think we tried to do some things right.”
Even though his team was playing its fifth game in seven days, Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said fatigue was not an excuse.
“Denver got off a (four)-game road trip in a short amount of time,” he said. “It wasn`t as if they were sitting here for five days waiting on us.”
The Nuggets (5-3) were coming off a dramatic win in Indiana on Saturday, when they rallied from 25 down to beat the Pacers.
“We rode that momentum from the last game,” Iverson said. “The confidence level was high, coming back from 25 down.”
The Nuggets led by as many as 27 in the second half Monday, but Shannon Brown hit two jumpers to start the final period that cut Denver`s lead to 88-72. That`s when Smith came alive. He scored 15 points in the fourth quarter and was 4-for-5 from behind the 3-point line to push the lead back to 25.
“I just did what my team needed me to do – make open shots, get my teammates the ball, rebound and play defense,” Smith said. “Just go out there and have fun.”
The Cavaliers (4-4) trailed 21-18 after the first quarter despite shooting 25 percent. Cleveland benefited from seven Denver turnovers that helped keep the score close.
The Nuggets used a 13-2 run, highlighted by an Iverson alley-oop pass to Smith, to take a 39-24 with 5:52 left in the first half. The Cavaliers (4-4) got within 11, but two 3-pointers by Smith at the end of the second quarter gave the Nuggets a 15-point lead at the break.
Cleveland guard Larry Hughes didn`t finish the game. After missing a 3-pointer with 7:42 left in the first half, Hughes felt he had been fouled and had some words for referee Bill Spooner, who quickly gave Hughes two technical fouls and ejected him.
“I got hit four straight times on four jump shots by Melo,” he said. “I got smacked good on four straight shots. I asked him to call a foul. I said what needed to be said.”
* The Nuggets are 7-2 against Cleveland since Anthony and James joined the league in 2003.
* The 122 points were the most Cleveland has surrendered since allowing 120 to Philadelphia on Nov. 19, 2005, which was Brown`s first year on the bench.
* Cavaliers G/F Sasha Pavlovic did not play. Pavlovic experienced back spasms against the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday night and left the game in the second quarter.
* Smith`s 29 points were a season high.