Cavaliers 92, Nuggets 73

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DENVER (AP)—The friendly rivalry with LeBron James turned into an embarrassing debacle for Carmelo Anthony.

James had 17 points, eight rebounds, nine assists and one thrilling windmill jam Thursday night to help the Cleveland Cavaliers humiliate Anthony and the Denver Nuggets, 92-73 in front of a booing crowd at the Pepsi Center.

“I loved it tonight,” James said. “To jump on a team like this at their home, I couldn’t ask for anything better for our team.”

This was the third meeting between the two stars of last year’s NBA draft. Denver swept the series last season, and Anthony fared a little bit better than James in the box scores.

This time around, though, James had the better game and the better team, and the verdict was pretty much sealed midway through the first quarter.

Anthony missed seven of his first eight shots en route to a 14-point night, in which most of the points came after the Nuggets trailed by 20. He finished 6-for-20 with five turnovers.

After the game, he snubbed reporters, put on his fur coat and slipped out the side door of the locker room.

James, meanwhile, had the exact opposite kind of evening. He distributed and rebounded, didn’t force shots and was willing to take a lesser role when other teammates got hot. Jeff McInnis scored 15 points, Drew Gooden had 10 points and 13 rebounds, and Robert Traylor finished with 15 points and nine boards.

“I’ve got to win a couple more against him,” said James, now 1-2 against his rival.

In a nationally televised game that was supposed to showcase the better side of the PR-challenged NBA, this was not much of a show. That was especially true for the Nuggets, who were widely considered one of the league’s up-and-coming teams but were pretty much a mess on this night.

Denver’s worst moment? It probably came late in the second quarter when James, on a breakaway, threw down the windmill jam to give the Cavs a 50-26 lead. Fans oohed and ahhed. Then, just to emphasize the point that they had turned on their team, they booed lustily as the Nuggets brought the ball back upcourt.

In an unflinching analysis after the game, Denver coach Jeff Bzdelik questioned his team’s effort.

“It’s like the gate opens up and one thoroughbred goes and four times this season we just stand there,” said Bzdelik, who lumped this bad game in with previous blowout losses to the Lakers, Jazz and Sonics.

Andre Miller had 10 points for Denver, which fell behind by 20 early in the second quarter and never got closer until garbage time. Kenyon Martin had six points, three rebounds and a technical foul.

Anthony, meanwhile, started and played 29 minutes after missing Monday night’s game due to a sprained ankle. Bzdelik kept him on the bench for a long stretch of the third and fourth quarter, but refused to single out his star for the loss.

“I don’t think you throw it on one person,” the coach said. “This is a team. It’s a `we’ thing, and that includes me.”

Before the game, Denver TV stations aired a homemade DVD from Baltimore that showed Anthony with a man who warns that people who tip police about drug deals “get a hole in their head.”

Anthony’s agent released a statement saying his client didn’t knowingly participate in the making of the video and “does not approve of its message or content.”

Although it’s still hard to tell how much trouble the video might cause the Nuggets star, it was undoubtedly a distraction, one of many that have plagued him over the past few months.

“In order to perform their job well, you have to have a concentrated effort, 24-7, on your job,” Bzdelik said before the game.

Strangely enough, he said almost the exact same thing after the loss, though not in response to a question about Anthony.

“This is a job,” Bzdelik said. “It’s got to mean something.”

Notes

The Cavs activated guard Sasha Pavlovic and placed guard Dajuan Wagner on the injured list before the game. Wagner has an inflamed right arch. … The Nuggets fell to 8-7, not where they hoped to be at this point during a season-opening stretch in which they play 13 of 17 games at home. After home games Saturday and Monday, they go on a seven-game road trip. … Bzdelik picked up his second technical foul of the season in the fourth quarter. … Police escorted a fan who was razzing James out of the building with about a minute left.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Cleveland
L. James L. James
8-17,  17 Pts
8 Rebs, 9 Assists
 Denver
A. Miller A. Miller
4-10,  10 Pts
5 Rebs, 5 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists