CLEVELAND -- The Cavaliers wanted to use Saturday's game as a measuring stick.
They came up a bit short, as the surging Denver Nuggets prevailed, 111-103, at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Nuggets (33-18) own the league's longest winning streak at nine in a row. They haven't lost since Jan. 18 against Washington.
The Cavs (16-35) were trying to win four in a row for the first time in three years. Instead, they couldn't solve the Nuggets' ferocious defense.
The Cavs turned the ball over 16 times, 10 more than they did in their previous two games combined.
Denver also held to 43.2 percent shooting from the field.
Forward Danilo Gallinari paced the Nuggets with 19 points and nine rebounds.
Denver got it done with balanced scoring. They showed off their deep and talented roster with seven players in double figures, and one other with nine. Forward Kenneth Faried added 17 points and seven rebounds, while shooting guard Andre Iguodala had 14 points and seven assists.
The Nuggets won the battle of the boards, 46-38.
The Cavs fell to 3-13 on the second night of a back-to-back set.
All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving had a game-high 26 points, six rebounds and seven assists.
The 6-foot-3, 191-pounder was saddled with foul trouble on Saturday. He picked up his fourth personal in the third quarter and was forced to the bench.
Forward Alonzo Gee fired in 20 points, two off his career high. However, 15 of them came in the first six minutes of the game. He has been battling a horrid shooting slump in the last couple weeks. He made 8 of 8 from the field, 3 of 3 from behind the arc.
The Cavs bench had been outstanding since the trade with Memphis on Jan. 22. However, the Nuggets have a lot of pride in their reserves, too. Denver's bench outscored the Cavs, 40-36. Their bench was led by 7-footer JaVale McGee's 13 points, four rebounds and four blocks.
On one of his rejections, in the third quarter, he caught a shot by Cavs center Marreese Speights. The Cavs bench wanted a goaltending, as the ball seemed to be on its downward arc.
The Nuggets opened up an 84-73 advantage after three quarters. They were shooting 50 percent from the floor after three quarters, compared to 41 percent for the Cavs.
Gee had a game-high 20 points for the Cavs entering the final quarter.
Faried took a hard fall after crashing into Cavs forward Luke Walton. He got up and shook it off. He had eight points in the second quarter, as the Nuggets sped out to a 58-52 advantage at halftime.
They outscored the Cavs, 28-20, in the second quarter. Denver was shooting 51.2 percent from the field in the first half, compared to the Cavs' 41.7 percent.
The Nuggets were also dominant on the boards and were winning the rebounding battle in the first half, 30-19.
Irving's driving layup with 0.7 seconds left handed the Cavs a two-point edge after one quarter, 32-30.
It was the Gee show in the first quarter. He scored 15 points in the first six minutes and ended with 16. He's been fighting a major shooting slump, but was 6 of 6 in the first quarter, including 3 of 3 from behind the arc.
The Nuggets had three players with five points, including Faried.
NOTES: Cavs coach Byron Scott said the team's bench is playing at an all-time high. "They all know their roles and they don't deviate from it," he said. "We have two great leaders in Shaun (Livingston) and Luke (Walton). They've made a very good connection in a very short time." Scott is using a 10-man rotation. Center Marreese Speights has been the leading scorer off the bench. Nuggets coach George Karl likes the Cavs' trade with Memphis that landed Speights and Wayne Ellington. "They added shooters," he said. "They bring Speights, Ellington and (C.J.) Miles off the bench and they fire. It will be fun. We think our bench is good, too." ... Scott is impressed with Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried. "He's not 6-8, I'll tell you that," he said. "He plays much bigger. He goes after everything. He doesn't take plays off. You don't see guys that athletic who play that hard. He goes after everything. It's a full sprint every time." Scott said Cavs center Anderson Varejao plays at the same level, "but Faried is so much more athletic than Andy. He jumps out of the gym. He's a handful." ... Cavs general manager Chris Grant walked past Karl while he was doing his pregame availability. "Make any trades?" Karl asked. "We're open for business," Grant said, "as long as you have picks." ... Karl said Cavs guard Kyrie Irving is exceptional. "It's very unique you prepare the majority of your game plan to stop a second-year guy," Karl said. "He hasn't played 80 games yet. In the fourth quarter, we have to be aware he likes that moment." ... Karl isn't worried about the fact he has no superstars. "It's a team game," he said. "At the end of the season, the champion in June will be the team that plays as a team, and plays with the team mentality first. We're going to try to shock the world and win a championship without a superstar or an All-Star."