Nuggets hammer Cavaliers, 133-95, to end three-game losing streak – The Denver Post

Nuggets players gathered on Wednesday morning for a team meeting that coach Michael Malone described as a “state of the union” after three consecutive losses prior to hosting the Cavaliers.

Players vented frustration as Malone posed a simple question to the group: Who are we?

“Talk is cheap,” Malone said. “Instead of talking about, we’ve got to be about it. We lost to three good teams. … No excuse. We have to find a way to get better.”

Later Wednesday night, with the Nuggets manhandling the Cavaliers, 133-95, it appeared Malone’s message had finally sunk in — albeit against an overmatched opponent. Six different Nuggets scored in double-digits, with Paul Millsap finishing with a game-high 22 points. And, instead of wilting in the third quarter, Denver’s lead ballooned to 34 to erase all doubt entering the fourth.

The Nuggets (13-11) move ahead to face the Thunder on Friday, their third matchup of a current four-game homestand. But Wednesday’s win felt like a potential inflection point for a team in need of a positive turn.

Denver and Cleveland both entered the midweek tilt at Ball Arena starving for a victory. The Cavaliers were losers in four-straight games. The Nuggets dropped three in a row. Malone, before tip-off, said: “A lot of tonight’s game is going to come down to who has a greater sense of urgency and who is tired of losing. I really hope that’s us.”

The Nuggets caught fire quickly Wednesday with nine consecutive made baskets to open the game. Starters Will Barton, Nikola Jokic, Millsap and Jamal Murray combined to shoot 9-of-9 from the field in the first quarter — and Denver doubled-up Cleveland, 34-17, for early momentum.

It allowed the Nuggets’ backups extended play over the next three quarters with reserve guard Facundo Campazzo making his return from a two-game injury absence (knee). He recorded five points and three assists. Fellow Rookie Zeke Nnaji — a first-round pick from Arizona — also scored a career-high 14 points; plus a technical foul after a posterizing dunk for taunting.

It was another disappointing night for the Cavaliers (10-16) in their ongoing rebuild. But Malone was especially positive in his assessment of Cleveland head coach J.B. Bickerstaff when asked before the game about their connection.

“We have a lot of similarities, both sons of coaches. His dad is a legendary coach. He grew up in this business and grew up in this game. I think there is common ground there,” Malone said. “We both worked the Chicago pre-draft camp, which seems like a long time ago, and it was. … We have similar paths; career assistant coaches, pay your dues, learn the league, create relationships, and just wait for that opportunity and wait for that chance.

“Obviously, he got that chance in a few different places, and I love what he is doing in Cleveland.”

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