Cavs miss late chances as Nuggets eke out win

DENVER (AP) -- LeBron James grabbed the rebound but not the


James pulled down his own missed free throw -- which he purposely

misfired with .6 seconds left -- and drew another foul with

Cleveland trailing Denver by two points.

After swishing his first foul shot, he missed his second and

Alan Henderson's tip-in bounced out at the buzzer, leaving the

Nuggets to celebrate a 90-89 victory over the Cavaliers on

Wednesday night.

"It just didn't go down," a crestfallen James said. "I shot

it just like I shoot any other free throw, I just missed it. We

have to move on. Everything that happened here tonight, I blame

myself. When we win, I get the credit, when we lose I take the

blame for it, it's just another loss.

"I'm the leader of this team and I failed to make plays down

the stretch. I'm the leader and I'm supposed to make plays down the

stretch, and we lost. So put it on me."

James finished with 24 points but the Cavs lost their fifth

straight, including the first four on their Western trip.

Carmelo Anthony and Earl Boykins led the Nuggets with 17 points

each and Kenyon Martin and Eduardo Najera each scored 16. Martin

also grabbed a season-best 17 rebounds.

Anthony was held to his lowest output in a full game since Nov.

23, but he sure was proud of his defense.

"The whole game my focus was to stop LeBron from getting 30

points out there," Anthony said. " It was a tough task, but

overall I feel like I did a pretty decent job while I was in the

game on him. The most important thing is that we came away with a


Anthony did have one very huge basket, as usual.

He zipped past Ira Newble for a dunk that gave Denver an 89-87

lead with 21 seconds left. Eduardo Najera stole the ball at the

other end and had a chance to seal it when he was fouled by Eric

Snow with 4.6 seconds left, but he missed his second shot, leaving

Cleveland down 90-87 with a chance to send the game into overtime

with a 3-pointer.

Andre Miller fouled James before he could set up for a three,

and James made his first shot, then purposefully misfired his

second and grabbed his own rebound while Martin got whistled for

the foul.

"It was a perfect miss," James said. "That sounds crazy, but

I missed it perfectly, and I followed it and got fouled, and we

were in a position to go to OT, but I lost the game for us. I've

never practiced that but I know how to hit the back of the rim and

make it pop out."

Nuggets coach George Karl questioned how James could have gotten

his own miss within the rules.

"My gut says he's not allowed to break the plane until the ball

hits the rim," Karl said. "He's pretty Superman-like if he could

get where he got without him breaking the plane."

James swished the first shot to make it 90-89, then missed his


Henderson reached in for the tip and for a second felt like he

had seized the moment.

"I got a hand on it and I really thought it was going to go in

the basket," Henderson said. "I thought it was good."

Henderson and Zydrunas Ilgauskas each added 16 points for

Cleveland. Ilgauskas played despite a sore left knee but Cavs

forward Drew Gooden sat out his second straight game with a

strained right thigh.

James picked up a quick foul early on and was heading to the

bench with his second at the 3:33 mark of the first quarter when

official Joe Crawford corrected the call to a foul on Donyell

Marshall instead.

James spun around and stayed in the game, no doubt pleasing

ESPN, which was broadcasting the head-to-head matchup between James

and Anthony, the first and third selections in the 2003 NBA draft,

respectively, who have been compared to each other since their high

school days.

The coaches had differing opinions on the marquee matchup, with

Karl saying he resented the notion that this was a matchup of

rising stars and not teams and Cleveland's Mike Brown saying all

the hype was good for the game.

Martin concurred with his coach: "It's not the LeBron and

Carmelo show, it's the Nuggets and Cavaliers."

Indeed, although James came within an assist of a triple-double,

neither he nor Anthony had an All-Star performance on this night.

"No we didn't, but I won the game, so that's the only thing I

can keep saying," Anthony said. "Regardless of how I played, how

he played, I won the game. I think we both gave a good effort out

there. I take my hat off to both of us."Game notes
5-5 Boykins rejected a shot by 5-10 Mike Wilks in the first

half. ... Nuggets C Marcus Camby said he'll have pins removed from

his broken right pinkie next week but doesn't know when he'll

return to the lineup. ... Henderson had season highs in both points

and rebounds (12).