Cavs clinch Central Division title with win over Nuggets
March 22 2016 10:27 PM
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) calls a play against the Denver Nuggets during the second quarter.


It’s not the title they ultimately want, but it’s a start.
LeBron James had 33 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists and the Cavaliers clinched the Central Division with a 124-91 victory Monday night against the Denver Nuggets. It’s the fifth division title in team history and also marked their ninth 50-win season while serving as James’ second triple-double of the season and the 41st of his career.
Channing Frye scored 14 points as a replacement for Kevin Love, who did not play because he was ill. J.R. Smith scored 15 points and Matthew Dellavedova had 10 points and seven assists off the bench. Kyrie Irving had eight points and three assists.
“I think a 50-win season in this league, it’s not every year you can do that,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “It just shows the hard work the guys have put in to get to this point.”
The Cavs built a 19-point lead in the first quarter Monday before the bench gave it all back in the second. The Nuggets scored 17 consecutive points in the second while the Cavs went scoreless for more than six minutes. Will Barton scored 16 of his team-high 27 points in the second quarter for the Nuggets.
The Cavs led by as many as 36 in the fourth after trailing by as many as 33 in Saturday’s embarrassing loss at Miami. That’s the way it has been all season for the Cavs, who despite their inconsistencies still hold the top seed in the Eastern Conference with three weeks left in the regular season.
“All is not bad,” Lue said. “We’re still growing, we’re still getting better on a night-to-night basis and we can celebrate this, but we gotta keep moving forward.”
Nikola Jokic and Gary Harris each scored 11 points for the Nuggets, whose starters totaled 33 points - the same figure James totalled by himself.
The Cavs changed up their defensive schemes Monday, reverting back to a simpler two-on-two pick-and-roll defense that worked well for them last season and earlier this season. They held the Nuggets to 40 percent shooting as a result.
James has been part of four of the five division titles in team history and six of the nine 50-win seasons. He was terrific throughout Monday, scoring 17 of the team’s 38 points to stake them to the big lead. It was the most points the Cavs have scored in a first quarter this season.

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