CLEVELAND (AP) — Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers' best performance of the season brought an end to the Denver Nuggets' seven-game winning streak.
Irving scored 23 points and the Cavaliers won back-to-back games for the first time this season with a 98-88 victory over Denver Wednesday night.
Tristan Thompson had a career-high 21 rebounds and 17 points for Cleveland, which handed Denver its first loss since Nov. 18. The Nuggets played the third game of a six-game road trip, which began with a 14-point win in Toronto on Sunday and a 24-point victory in Brooklyn on Tuesday.
"They just whupped us tonight," Denver coach Brian Shaw said. "They looked like the fresher team and they were quicker to the punch."
Randy Foye led Denver with 16 points, while J.J. Hickson had 15 points and 11 rebounds, but the Nuggets couldn't contend with Cleveland's balanced attack. Anderson Varejao scored a season-high 18 points and had 13 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who recorded their largest margin of victory this season.
While the Nuggets have been one the league's hottest teams, the Cavaliers have struggled to adjust to new coach Mike Brown's system. Cleveland already has lost seven games by double figures, but a win over Chicago on Saturday and its latest victory produced some confidence.
"Winning is the thing that cures everything," Brown said.
"We came out aggressive on both ends of the floor and that's what coach Brown has been preaching," Irving said. "It's paying dividends. It starts with the way we practice and carries over into games."
Denver trailed by 12 points in the second quarter, but finished the first half on a 10-2 run and cut the lead to two early in the third period. The Nuggets got no closer, however, as the Cavaliers stretched the lead to double figures. The margin reached 13 early in the fourth.
Andrew Bynum, coming off his best game of the season, had 14 points and seven rebounds in 20 minutes. The 7-footer had 20 points, 10 rebounds, and five blocked shots Saturday against the Bulls in a 97-93 win. Bynum, Thompson and Varejao combined for 41 of Cleveland's 58 rebounds.
"They were monsters in the pick-and-roll," Brown said. "They were monsters on the glass. They were monsters around the rim. It was awesome to watch."
Thompson had nine rebounds in nine minutes in the first quarter. He had 11 points and 13 rebounds in the first half.
"Tristan Thompson had his season averages at halftime," Shaw said. "This was a good lesson for our bigs. When you're playing against bigger guys like him and Bynum, you've got to put a body on them."