Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 1/12/13
DENVER -- A year ago the Denver Nuggets watched Kyrie Irving carve them up on their home court. Friday, the Cleveland guard got out of his sick bed and almost delivered an encore performance. Irving had a game-high 28 points before faltering down the stretch as the Nuggets escaped with a 98-91 win over the Cavaliers. Danilo Gallinari had 23 points and hit a key 3-pointer in the final minute and Kosta Koufos scored a career-high 21 points for the Nuggets, who overcame another slow start to win their fourth in a row. "We've had some opponents whose record would say you don't have to come fired up," said Andre Iguodala, who had 13 points and 11 rebounds. "Being a young team it doesn't settle in until you've been bitten a few times." It was the second straight game Denver stumbled early before rallying to beat a sub-.500 team at home. The Nuggets rallied to beat Orlando on Wednesday and needed late heroics Friday to beat the 9-29 Cavaliers. Cleveland coach Byron Scott felt his team let Denver off the hook. "The second half, we didn't come out ready to play. Period," he said. "We came out in what I call our cool mode. What happens in this league, being cool will get your (butt) kicked. That's the way we came out and that's what we got." Denver trailed all game until Andre Miller tied it at 78-78 with a fast-break layup with 9:02 left. Irving scored the next seven points to put Cleveland ahead by five, but a free throw by Kenneth Faried tied it at 85-85 with six minutes left. Faried had 17 points and 11 rebounds for his 29th career double-double. Koufos gave Denver its first lead since midway through the first quarter with a hook shot, and twice Ty Lawson drove to the bucket for tie-breaking layups in the final minutes. His last one with 1:48 gave Denver the lead for good, and after Tyler Zeller missed a jumper, Lawson fed Gallinari at the top of the circle for a 3-pointer that made it 94-89 with 34 seconds left. "I'm always confident, I'm always ready to take those shots," Gallinari said. Irving missed his final four shots, a stark contrast to last year when he hit a jumper with four seconds left to beat Denver by a point. Missing shootaround while recovering from an illness didn't help Cleveland's leading scorer. "I felt like crap, it's just something I have to get through," said Irving, who added seven assists and five steals. "I felt it throughout the whole game but my adrenaline definitely took over. We were in the game and it started getting excited in the second half." Dion Waiters added 18 points and Tristan Thompson scored 16 points for the Cavaliers, who opened a five-game Western Conference road trip. The Nuggets trailed by 12 before getting back in the game with an 11-0 run to make it 62-61. Irving hit a 3-pointer and a jumper to get the lead back to six, and when Denver got within one again late in the third Luke Walton hit a 3-pointer from the top to push it to a 72-68 advantage. The Cavaliers led for most of the first half as Irving scored 12 points and Waiters had 14 points off the bench. Denver allowed Cleveland to shoot 53 percent and trailed 56-45 at intermission. "Sometimes we're too satisfied when you're on a winning streak and you get to thinking 'We're better than we are,' " Nuggets coach George Karl said. NOTES: Walton returned to action after missing two games for personal reasons. ... Irving entered Friday averaging 27.8 points and 5.5 assists in his last four games. ... The Nuggets expect to get forward Wilson Chandler back in the near future, possibly as early as Sunday. Chandler has missed all but four games while recovering from offseason hip surgery. He hasn't played since Nov. 12. Karl said an already crowded rotation will become more so when Chandler returns. "I've got eight guys I'm pretty well in control of. How I go nine or 10 is frustrating I'm sure. It'll pan its way out in January," Karl said. "That's what I've always thought, but we haven't played with the urgency we need to play with me to experiment. Wilson probably will play in the next couple of games, so that's another problem right there. All of a sudden I have 12 or 13 guys that should be on the court. I don't think anybody should feel secure in their minutes. They have to earn them and that's how it should be."
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