first_imgHeading into the Cavs-Nuggets game Wednesday night in Denver, optimism was in the air.The Pepsi Center was filled with a heavy contingency of Cavs fans.More importantly, J.R. Smith was back in the starting lineup for the first time since Dec. 20 and Kyle Korver returned after missing seven games due to foot soreness.The Cavs fans in the building didn’t have to worry about LeBron James, Kyrie Irving or Kevin Love resting, as the entire regular starting lineup was on the court for the first time since Dec. 17.The good vibes for Cavs fans pretty much came to an end within a few minutes after tip-off. The Cavs went on to lose, 126-113.Cleveland’s players showed up, but their defense did not for most of the night.Credit a young, hungry Nuggets team for taking advantage, but a team with as much talent as the Cavs has no business allowing an opponent to shoot 59 percent from the field in the first half.The Nuggets scored 73 before halftime.Cleveland started to wake up defensively in the third quarter, cutting the deficit to five after trailing by 14 at the break.A few Kenneth Faried dunks, a Will Barton jumper and some beautiful buckets from Nikola Jokic brought the game quickly out of reach again.Denver scored 70 points in the paint – the second-most any team has put up against Cleveland this season.The Nuggets received 56 points from their bench. Barton scored 20 (8-of-14), Faried scored 17, and Jamal Murray finished with 15.Jokic was three assists shy of a triple-double, scoring 16 points.Wilson Chandler scored 18 in his first game back after missing four games due to a groin injury.Gary Harris scored a team-high 21. Mason Plumlee scored 12.The Cavs couldn’t have been expected to click instantly with all of their players back on the court for the first time, but only have 12 games to try to get used to each other before the playoffs.The mystery of how Smith and Korver will fit together is something to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.Korver looked rusty, shooting 3-for-9 from the field, but that’s expected after missing seven games.Smith shot 1-for-6, which was an off night after he appeared to start clicking last week.Kyrie Irving scored 33 points and Deron Williams scored 19 off the bench, but the Cavs trailed by double digits most of the night.LeBron James finished with 18 points, six rebounds and five assists, but his defense was questioned after the game.“I had opportunities where I could have been better, but one thing I always bring is toughness,” James said.Earlier in his post-game comments, LeBron pointed to his team’s lack of toughness as one of the reasons for the loss.“You can’t preach toughness,” he said.“You just have to have it.”Tyronn Lue was not happy with his team’s effort. He also ended up being called for a technical foul during the game, which was only the third of his professional coaching career.Here’s what he had to say after the game:”We got our butt kicked today.”Ty Lue calls out players and coaches alike after 13 point loss to the @nuggets pic.twitter.com/zbtXdR8tMg— FOX Sports Ohio (@FOXSportsOH) March 23, 2017Meanwhile, the Boston Celtics defeated the Indiana Pacers to move within one game of first place in the Eastern Conference.The Cavs travel to Charlotte to take on the Hornets on Friday, March 24 at 7 pm. Matt Medley is co-editor at NEO Sports Insiders, covers the Cleveland Cavaliers, Cleveland Indians and high school sports in Northeast Ohio.Follow @MedleyHoops on Twitter for live updates from games. Matt Medleycenter_img Related Topicslast_img