DENVER — LeBron James scored 39 points, including nine down the stretch, and dished out 10 assists as the Cavaliers beat the Denver Nuggets 113-108 on Wednesday night after squandering a 16-point lead.
James made one off-balanced shot after another in the waning minutes to turn back the Nuggets, who didn’t take their first lead of the game until 8:35 remaining on a driving layup by Mason Plumlee. Jeff Green gave Cleveland the lead for good with a 3-pointer on a play set up by James after he tapped a loose ball out to him.
It was that kind of night for James. He made a deep 3-pointer with 1:11 remaining, thumping himself in the chest in exuberance as he skipped down the court.
James wound up two rebounds shy of a triple-double as the Cavs began a six-game trip in fine fashion.
Nikola Jokic had 36 points and 13 rebounds for the Nuggets, who lost for the second straight night. They dropped a costly game at Dallas on Tuesday as they try to cling to a playoff spot.
Larry Nance Jr. once again was in the starting lineup with big men Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson sidelined by with injuries. Nance scored 13 points and grabbed 13 boards.
The Nuggets committed 21 turnovers.
James was fueled in part by a 126-117 home loss to Denver last Saturday. He said in the morning shootaround: “You always want to try to give some giveback. That’s the competitive nature.”
The Paul Millsap and Jokic combination remains a work in progress, but they’re starting to get on the same page. Millsap missed 44 games following surgery on his left wrist.
Coach Michael Malone’s stressed to Jokic he needed be more assertive. He was, too, connecting on 12 of 14 shots.
“He’s our best player and we need him to step up in these last 18 games,” Malone said.