NBA: Cavaliers without Donovan Mitchell defeated the Nuggets

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland skates over Denver Nuggets guard Julian Strawther during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Dermer)

CLEVELAND — Darius Garland scored 26 points and undrafted rookie Craig Porter Jr. had a career-high 21 points to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 121-109 victory over defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets on Sunday night.

Evan Mobley had 16 points and 10 rebounds and Jarrett Allen added 15 points for Cleveland, which built a season-high 26-point lead en route to its third straight victory. The Cavaliers outscored Denver by 42 points in the 29 minutes Allen was on the court.

“Everyone stepped up to the plate and that gave us the win,” Mobley said. “JA played a huge role in putting pressure on the rim. Between him, me and DG, it was just a work of art, playing basketball the right way and doing everything together.”

Nuggets center Nikola Jokić struggled with foul trouble and recorded 18 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in 28 minutes. The two-time MVP was the first player to start a season with 12 games with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds since Elgin Baylor in 1967.

“They were better than us today,” Jokic said. “I thought we were stagnant and needed more movement. They got what they wanted, both offensively and on the line.

Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell, who is averaging 29.2 points, was inactive with a torn right hamstring, and sixth man Caris LeVert did not play with left knee soreness.

Cleveland, which had not trailed in the final three quarters, outrebounded the Nuggets 47-33, with power forward Mobley and center Allen both playing forward and behind Jokic on many possessions.

“Let’s give all the credit to our big players, they did a great job of protecting Jokic and making it difficult for him to catch the ball,” said Garland, who also had six assists. “We fell a little short and our defense kept us ahead throughout the game. That was the key, I thought.

Michael Porter Jr. scored 21 points and Christian Braun had 13 points off the bench for Denver, which lost its fourth straight away game after winning its first two games. The Nuggets are 0-2 in five games, ending Friday in Houston.

“We don’t come together as a team,” Jokic said. Sometimes we don’t get on the pitch and sometimes it’s a lucky bounce, but that’s just an excuse.

Garland scored 16 points and Mobley 12 in the first half as the Cavaliers took a 66-58 lead into halftime. Allen scored the first eight points of the third quarter before taking a flagrant foul from Jokic a few minutes later. It was his fifth personal foul.

“I thought Jarrett was phenomenal in taking on the challenge of guarding one of the best players in our game,” Cleveland coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “He made Jokic work for everything.”

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Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, who missed his sixth straight game with a torn right hamstring, is traveling with the team. Coach Michael Malone has not ruled out his return for the trip.


Nuggets: Visit Detroit on Monday night.

Cavaliers: Visit Philadelphia on Tuesday night.


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