Denver coach George Karl thinks it’s about time people started taking notice of his team.
Given the fact the Nuggets are on the NBA’s longest active winning streak, Karl has good reason to feel that way.
Danilo Gallinari scored 19 points, Kenneth Faried added 17 and Denver won their ninth straight game with a 111-103 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday night.
Although the Nuggets have the fourth-best record in the Western Conference, no Denver player was selected for next Sunday’s All-Star Game, a fact Karl is quick to point out.
”We’re going to try and shock the world and become the first team to win a championship without an All-Star,” he said.
The Nuggets, who have won 15 of 17, are on their longest winning streak since posting 10 straight victories from March 30-April 15, 2005. San Antonio had an 11-game streak snapped Friday night.
Kyrie Irving led Cleveland with 26 points, but was plagued by foul trouble. The All-Star guard picked up his fourth foul with 5:20 remaining in the third quarter and went to the bench with the Nuggets leading 72-61. Irving returned to start the fourth quarter with Denver ahead 84-73. He scored 12 points in the period, but Cleveland’s rally fell short.
Irving was down on the court briefly after taking a knee to the thigh in the fourth quarter, but said following the game he was OK.
The loss ended Cleveland’s three-game winning streak that matched a season high. The Cavaliers haven’t won four games in a row since March 17-24, 2010, which was LeBron James’ final season with the franchise.
”We ran into a team playing very good basketball,” Cleveland coach Byron Scott said. ”I’m not disappointed in our effort. Tonight, they were a better team.”
Denver, which began a four-game road trip, is scheduled to play in Boston on Sunday. The Nuggets planned to fly into Boston following Saturday’s game. The team reserved hotel rooms in Cleveland in case their plans were changed thanks to the massive snowstorm that hit the Northeast this weekend.
Denver showed its depth by placing eight players in double figures.
”There are only about 10 true superstars in the NBA, I think, but I believe Andre Iguodala, Ty Lawson, Andre Miller, and Kenneth Faried are in the next 40 players,” Karl said.
Alonzo Gee scored 20 points for Cleveland with 16 coming in the first quarter.
The Nuggets built a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter. The Cavaliers cut the gap to 105-99 with 1:40 remaining, but Gallinari’s two free throws and Faried’s dunk put the game away.
The Nuggets, who were off Friday while the Cavaliers beat Orlando at home, looked like the fresher team. Denver outscored Cleveland 19-5 in fast-break points. The Nuggets also had 62 points in the paint compared to 32 for the Cavaliers.
”The starters and the bench were lacking a bit of energy,” Irving said. ”We were a step behind and they outplayed us.”
The game featured physical play by both teams, particularly in the second half. Cavaliers center Tyler Zeller was given a technical foul in the third quarter for shoving Nuggets center JaVale McGee while Faried and Cleveland forward Tristan Thompson got tangled up on a couple of occasions.
”It was my kind of game tonight,” Faried said.
Karl had to be restrained by his assistants for going after the officials in the third quarter. Karl was angry about a foul call that went against his team.
Denver took a quick 8-0 lead, but Gee, who had scored 14 points his last two games combined, kept Cleveland in the game by scoring 15 of the Cavaliers’ first 17 points.
Cleveland led 46-41 late in the second quarter, but Denver finished the half on a 17-6 run. The Nuggets scored the last six points of the half over the final 41.9 seconds to take a 58-52 lead into the locker room. Irving picked up two fouls in a span of 20 seconds late in the quarter, giving him three for the half.
Faried appeared to injure his knee in the first quarter, but still had 13 points and five rebounds in the half.
”I’m a warrior,” he said. ”I’m going to play tomorrow. Definitely, I’m playing.”
Iguodala scored 14 points for the Nuggets, while McGee added 13. Lawson had 11 points while Miller, Kosta Koufos and Corey Brewer scored 10 apiece.
NOTES: Denver, which came in as the worst free-throw shooting team in the league (69.1 percent), made 25 of 34 shots from the line. … The Nuggets are 11-15 away from home. … The Cavaliers continue their seven-game homestand Monday against Minnesota. Cleveland, which defeated Orlando on Friday, played home games on back-to-back nights for the only time this season. … Cleveland is 11-12 since Dec. 22.