CLEVELAND — As the Cavaliers begin the process of plugging the holes and bailing the water out of this battleship, the big men might ultimately be the ones that float the Cavs to safety.
Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao and Andrew Bynum were spectacular tonight against a red-hot Denver Nuggets team, combining for 49 points and 41 rebounds in an impressive 98-88 Cavaliers victory.
“They were monsters tonight,” Mike Brown said.
Thompson had 17 points and a career-high 21 rebounds, the first 20-rebound game of his career, and the Cavs won consecutive games for the first time this season. It’s only their seventh winning streak of any length dating back to the start of last season and it was fueled by the big men.
Varejao had 18 points and 13 rebounds off the bench and Bynum had 14 points and seven rebounds as the Cavs neutralized a Nuggets frontcourt of Kenneth Faried and J.J. Hickson.
“I just hope this is the first one in a lot more coming,” Varejao said.
In addition to being their first winning streak, the Cavs didn’t have last-minute drama in a victory for the first time this season. They took the lead for good midway through the first quarter, built it to as many as 12 points and kept the gap around 10 points most of the fourth quarter.
Kyrie Irving had 23 points and four assists and the Cavs limited the Nuggets to 39 percent shooting. The Nuggets were one of the league’s hottest teams, entering with a six-game winning streak, but they were playing the second night of back-to-back games and for the third time in four nights.
“That’s a really good team. They’ve been playing some good basketball,” Brown said of the Nuggets. “To get 34 rebounds between two guys (Thompson and Varejao) is an absolutely amazing night for our bigs. ... That type of effort was awesome to watch.”
Ty Lawson, the Nuggets’ leading scorer at 20.2 points, was held to four points on 1-of-13 shooting. Faried began the night averaging 9.1 rebounds, but the Cavs limited him to seven points and four rebounds.
“We’ve got a lot of good bigs in this league who can rebound and he’s definitely one of them,” Thompson said. “I took the approach that if I’m not getting the rebound, he’s definitely not going to get it because he brings that spark to the team that gets them going.”
Thompson had eight rebounds within the game’s first six minutes and 11 by halftime.
“My role was to take him out of it tonight and that’s what I did,” Thompson said. “I was fortunate to get some rebounds.”
Brown has insisted for weeks he’s seen improvement from the Cavs, but it hasn’t shown up yet in victories. Now they finally have a couple of victories to back it up.
“Winning for the most part is the thing that cures everything,” Brown said.