Nuggets 117, Cavaliers 103
Every word Byron Scott uttered was soaked with dejection.
As Cleveland's first-year coach analyzed yet another loss by the lowly Cavaliers, Scott was asked if he could identify one positive on another dreary night.
''Yeah,'' he said. ''It's over.''
Sadly for the Cavs, their losing streak isn't done.
Carmelo Anthony scored 33 points, Arron Afflalo added 23 and the Denver Nuggets avoided any embarrassment by beating Cleveland 117-103 on Friday night, handing the pathetic Cavaliers their team record-tying 19th straight loss.
Still winless in 2011, the Cavs have also dropped 29 of 30 and are now just five losses away from breaking the NBA record of 23 consecutive defeats in one season, an inglorious mark shared by the Vancouver (1995-96) and Denver (1997-98).
''Disappointing,'' said Scott, who played for the expansion Grizzlies when they lost 23 straight. ''We continue to spot teams 20-point leads and then we're fighting up hill all game long. We were on our heels the whole night. But I'm not going to throw my hands up. That's not me.''
Melo and the Nuggets showed little compassion for the Cavs, who cut a 23-point deficit down to six in the fourth but couldn't get any closer.
J.J. Hickson had 24 points and 14 rebounds for Cleveland, which lost its final 19 games in 1981-82 and its next five the following season to set the mark for the longest losing streak spanning two seasons.
Cleveland's current losing streak is the league's longest since Orlando dropped 19 in a row in 2003.
The Cavs' slide has continued through the incessant Anthony trade rumors, which have quieted in recent weeks but are certain to pick up as the Feb. 24 deadline approaches. Who knows, maybe the Cavs (8-38) will have won their ninth game by then.
Although they've tasted victory just once since Nov. 27, the Cavs never stopped fighting. Down by 22 midway through the third quarter, they reeled off 10 straight points and closed the period with a 12-3 spurt to pull within 93-83.
The burst kept Cleveland's crowd from bolting early, and when Hickson scored with 6:13 left, the Cavs were within 101-95 and Quicken Loans Arena sounded like it did when LeBron James was still around.
But Anthony restored order. After resting to start the quarter, he returned and hit a quick jumper before Ty Lawson blazed down the lane for an easy layup to put the Nuggets ahead 108-99 with 4:22 to go.
The Cavs missed at the other end and Chauncey Billups drained a long 3-pointer to make it 111-99 and kill Cleveland's comeback.
Anthony made 15 free throws - equaling the Cavs' total - and Lawson added 15 points as the Nuggets won their fourth in a row.
Denver has played well amid the swirling rumors about Anthony's future. But what once seemed a distraction is bonding the Nuggets.
''We get tired of being asked that question,'' coach George Karl said of the Melo-drama. ''We have kept it away from the basketball court. There is an energy that is drained from press conferences, going to different cities and being asked the same questions and reading the same stories.
''We had a bad stretch in early January, but we have bounced back. We're starting to play as good as we've played all year.''
Anthony said it was strange coming to Cleveland and not facing James, a close friend and Olympic teammate.
''It felt weird coming here and not playing against him,'' he said. ''We had some great matchups here. We always talk about that.''
Antawn Jamison had 20 points and 12 rebounds for Cleveland, which will likely go 0-for-January with upcoming games at Orlando on Sunday and in Miami on Monday to close the month. The Cavs' next best chance to end their losing streak will be next Wednesday at home against Indiana.
Denver center Nene returned after missing Wednesday's game with a strained right calf, but played only nine minutes. He sat out the second half as a precautionary measure, the team said.
Ramon Sessions had a season-high 13 assists for the Cavs.
As a former Cleveland coach, Karl has sympathy for the Cavs, who haven't won since Dec. 18. He's sure they'll snap out of their funk at some point.
''I feel sorry for them,'' he said. ''But they're going to win again. They're going to have a stretch where they will get their confidence going in a good direction and they'll win some games. It will probably happen on their home court before it happens on the road court.''
Notes: Nuggets F Al Harrington left the arena on crutches and in a walking boot after aggravating a foot injury in the fourth quarter. Karl said he's day to day. ... Karl's high school coach, Dick Misenhelter, addressed the Nuggets following their morning shootaround. Misenhelter, 80, shared a story about a young Karl being held to a season-low nine points in a loss during the Pennsylvania state playoffs. ''He brings up the one bad game I had that year,'' Karl said, laughing. ''I was a cocky dude.'' Misenhelter knew way back then that Karl would one day become a coach. ''George would always come up with ideas in the huddle,'' he said. ''He was always on top of his game.'' ... Scott reiterated he doesn't believe it will take long for the Cavs to return to winning. ''It's not going to take a decade,'' he said.
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