for this game

Anthony and Iverson blitz short-handed Cavaliers

Feb 11, 2008 - 4:05 AM CLEVELAND (Ticker) -- In what was billed as another edition of the battle between LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, the game came down to who had the better supporting cast. The answer, unequivocally, was the Denver Nuggets.

Anthony scored 27 points and Allen Iverson added 25 and 13 assists as the Nuggets crushed the Cleveland Cavaliers, 113-83, on Sunday.

Marcus Camby pulled down 17 rebounds for the third straight game and J.R. Smith came off the bench to chip in 18 points for Denver, which has won five of its past six games.

"I think we had an easy game because we did some good things, but I also think because they were short handed it was one of those games that we controlled," Denver coach George Karl said. "Offensively, I think A.I. (Allen Iverson) was spectacular. His ability to pass the ball the last few games has really been first class."

The 30-point loss was just one point shy of the largest margin of defeat at home for the Cavaliers since they drafted James No. 1 overall in 2003. Only Shannon Brown's 3-pointer with 21 seconds left kept Cleveland for setting a new record for futility.

The friendly rivalry between James and Anthony, who went No. 3 in the 2003 draft, dates back to high school. James won the Rookie of the Year award over Anthony in 2004 and took the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals last season, but Anthony and the Nuggets are poised to make a long playoff run this season.

On Sunday Anthony's help was evident, while James had virtually none.

Cleveland was without four of its top seven players in Anderson Varejao (ankle), Sasha Pavlovic (foot), Drew Gooden (groin), and Daniel Gibson (hamstring), and the lack of help was obvious, as only Larry Hughes was able to match James in double figures in scoring.

"Knowing that we have some of our key guys out is very frustrating," James said. "But we still have to play basketball."

Iverson took advantage of Cleveland's lack of speed on the perimeter, consistently staying a step ahead while guiding Denver's offense, and finishing with zero turnovers to go with his 13 assists.

"We jumped on them from the beginning. I think it was big having Junior (J.R. Smith) come off the bench and play the way he did," Iverson said. "We approached the game like they had everybody."

The Cavaliers came in having won 14 of their last 18 games, but managed to shoot just 34 percent (32-of-93).

"The tough part about it is I thought we could have at least played harder or fought back," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "We didn't embrace who we're trying to be, which is a good team defensively. That's the thing that's disappointing."

Denver shot 63 percent from the floor in the first quarter and the rout was on. The Nuggets led 35-24 after one and led by as many as 19 in the second quarter.

"We didn't come here expecting a blowout, but that's what happened," Anthony said. "It always good to come in here and get a win. I know (James) hates losing to me."

James scored six points in an 8-0 run to pull Cleveland to within 70-55, but Denver landed a knockout punch in the form of a 20-9 run to lead 90-64 after three quarters. It was Cleveland's worst home loss of the season.

James finished with 30 points, five rebounds, and three assists and Hughes added 14 points.

Anthony sank 11-of-19 shots, working inside and out, and added eight rebounds. With the large lead, neither Anthony nor Iverson spent much time on the floor in the fourth quarter, allowing Smith to knock down three 3-pointers in the frame as the focus of the offense. The Nuggets finished with 30 assists.

"If we get 30 assists, it's very tough to beat us," Denver's Linas Kleiza said.

The Cavaliers injury count mounted when Zydrunas Ilgauskas left early with back spasms and Damon Jones sprained his right ankle.

"It's always good for some of the players who are not a part of All-Star Weekend to get healthy," James said. "It's going to be good for our team."

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