for this game

Cavs continue red-hot play, rout Nuggets

Dec 20, 2008 - 7:57 AM By Blake Redabaugh PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

DENVER (Ticker) -- LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers do not seem to be interested in playing close games this season.

James collected 33 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists as the Cavaliers blew out the Denver Nuggets, 105-88, on Friday night at the Pepsi Center.

Cleveland, which now owns the NBA's second-best record at 22-4, won its 18th game by double digits and has only one victory by less than five points this season.

One of those double-digit victories came on November 13 in Cleveland when the Cavaliers defeated the Nuggets, 110-99.

With Friday's win, Cleveland swept the season series from Denver for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.

"(Denver) has been just as hot as us and we wanted to come in and make a statement," James said. "We took care of business."

Cleveland came out sizzling in this one as it raced out to a 37-21 first-quarter lead behind James' 14 points on 6-of-6 shooting.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who returned to the lineup after missing three games due to a sprained left ankle, added nine points as the Cavaliers shot 15-of-20 from the field in the opening quarter.

"We did a great job of coming in and controlling tempo," James said. "We got a lot of stops on the defensive end and on the offensive end we just executed."

"It seems that we have to be slapped before we start playing hard," Nuggets coach George Karl said of the slow start. "We didn't match the intensity for most of the game."

Denver, which now has lost two straight, managed to trim Cleveland's lead to 66-57 on Dahntay Jones' layup with 10:33 remaining in the third quarter.

The Nuggets would not get any closer, though, as Cleveland responded with an 11-2 run that saw Delonte West hit two 3-pointers. West finished with a season-high 22 points.

"Delonte was big for us throughout the entire ballgame," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "He played some one, played some two and was a facilitator."

"The guys trust what I can do with the basketball," West said. "They didn't run too many plays for me, but I have to find the open slot on the floor."

Chauncey Billups led the Nuggets with 16 points and Carmelo Anthony chipped in with 13, but had a poor shooting night, making only 5-of-14 shots from the floor.

"We had some good opportunities but we couldn't knock them down," Billups said. "The problem when you get down like that you got to play perfect to get back and win the game. That's asking a lot for anybody."

The back-to-back losses for the Nuggets mark the first time since acquiring Billups from the Detroit Pistons on November 3 that they've lost consecutive games.