CLEVELAND (AP) — Carmelo Anthony scored 33 points, Arron Afflalo added 23 and the Denver Nuggets avoided any embarrassment by beating Cleveland 117-103 on Friday night, handing the pathetic Cavaliers their team record-tying 19th straight loss.
Still winless in 2011, the Cavs have also dropped 29 of 30 and are now just five losses away from breaking the NBA record of 23 consecutive defeats in one season, an inglorious mark shared by the expansion Vancouver Grizzlies (1995-96) and Nuggets (1997-98).
Melo and the Nuggets showed little compassion for the Cavs, who rallied within six in the fourth but couldn’t get any closer.
J.J. Hickson had 24 points and 14 rebounds for Cleveland, which lost its final 19 games in 1981-82.
The Cavs’ slide has continued through the incessant Anthony trade rumors, which have quieted in recent weeks but are certain to pick up as the Feb. 24 deadline approaches. Who knows, maybe the Cavs (8-38) will have won their ninth game by then.
But although they’ve tasted victory just once since Nov. 27, the Cavs never stopped fighting. Down by 22 midway through the third quarter, they reeled off 10 straight points and closed the period with a 12-3 spurt to pull within 93-83.
The burst kept Cleveland’s crowd from bolting early, and when Hickson scored with 6:13 left, the Cavs were within 101-95 and Quicken Loans Arena sounded like it did when LeBron James was still around.
But Anthony came back and restored order. After resting to start the quarter, he returned and hit a quick jumper before Ty Lawson blazed down the lane for an easy layup to put the Nuggets ahead 108-99 with 4:22 to go.
The Cavs missed at the other end and Chauncey Billups drained a long 3-pointer to make it 111-99 and kill Cleveland’s comeback.
Anthony made 15 free throws — equaling the Cavs’ total — and Lawson added 15 points as the Nuggets won their fourth in a row.
Antawn Jamison had 20 points and 12 rebounds for Cleveland, which will likely go 0-for-January with upcoming games at Orlando on Sunday and in Miami on Monday to close the month. The Cavs’ next best chance to end their losing streak will be next Wednesday at home against Indiana.
Denver center Nene returned after missing Wednesday’s game with a strained right calf, but played only nine minutes. He sat out the second half as a precautionary measure, the team said.
Ramon Sessions had a season-high 13 assists for the Cavs.
As a former Cleveland coach, Denver’s George Karl has sympathy for the Cavs, who haven’t won since Dec. 18. He’s sure they’ll snap out of their funk at some point.
“I feel sorry for them,” he said. “But they’re going to win again. They’re going to have a stretch where they will get their confidence going in a good direction and they’ll win some games. It will probably happen on their home court before it happens on the road court.”
The Cavs stayed close early on and only trailed 31-24 after one.
But the Nuggets, who dropped 80 points on the Cavs in the first half of their home win over Cleveland earlier this month, scored 39 in the second to open a 70-50 halftime lead.
Notes: Cavs coach Byron Scott was on the Vancouver team that lost 23 in a row. … Karl had his high school coach, Dick Misenhelter, address the Nuggets following their morning shootaround. Misenhelter, 80, shared a story about a young Karl being held to a season-low nine points in a loss during the Pennsylvania state playoffs. “He brings up the one bad game I had that year,” Karl said, laughing. “I was a cocky dude.” Misenhelter knew way back then that Karl would one day become a coach. “George would always come up with ideas in the huddle,” he said. “He was always on top of his game.” … Scott reiterated he doesn’t believe it will take long for the Cavs to return to winning. “It’s not going to take a decade,” he said.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)