James scored 34 points a day before his 31st birthday, guard Iman Shumpert had a season-high 16 and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat Denver 93-87 on Tuesday.
The Cavaliers (21-9) were playing their fourth game in five nights on this Western Conference road trip. They lost a tough one to Golden State in an NBA Finals rematch Christmas before winning the last two to finish .500.
"This wasn't an easy trip," coach Dave Blatt said. "We had a long trip out to Golden State and a very emotional game that really could have gone either way. We really wanted and felt we needed to finish this trip strong."
Cleveland ended the trip by imposing its style on the Nuggets. The Cavaliers, who rank 28th in pace of play and second in points allowed per game, used their deliberate offense and strong defense to stop Denver's running game.
Denver (12-20) finished with only 14 fast-break points and shot 41.6 percent from the field. Guard Will Barton led the Nuggets with 29 points and center Joffrey Lauvergne scored 14. Denver has lost six of its last seven games.
"Turnovers hurt us," Denver coach Michael Malone said. "When you have 18 turnovers for 26 points, that's going to make it very hard to win. I don't care who you are playing."
Getting James involved early didn't help Denver's chances. He attempted just 10 shots in Monday's victory over Phoenix but he put up 13 the first half when Cleveland took control behind his 15 points. The Cavaliers led by as many as 15 and went into intermission ahead 53-42.
"I wanted to try to get my heartrate up, get that first punch because I know this air is very thin and try to get a good rhythm," he said. "It definitely translated to the game."
It was an ominous start for the Nuggets, who led for just 16 seconds in the first quarter.
"When he sees that ball go in the basket a couple of times from the perimeter, the basket gets bigger and bigger," Malone said. "He got into a rhythm."
It also showed that while the forward eases himself into the season he can still dominate before the All-Star game. He acknowledged he doesn't peak until the playoffs approach, but his performance against Denver looked like an April game.
"I'm not disrespecting what we do before the All-Star break, but for me, personally, I've always looked at it as another point for me to begin," James said.
He had a quiet third quarter Tuesday but the lead stayed around 10. James checked back into the game with 10 minutes left and hit a jumper, and Shumpert's dunk gave the Cavaliers a 77-63 lead.
Guard Randy Foye had a dunk and hit a jumper around two free throws from Barton to get the Nuggets within nine, but James kept Cleveland comfortably ahead. He sank three free throws and hit a jumper, and drained another pair of foul shots to put Cleveland ahead 86-73.
Denver began fouling center Tristan Thompson to put the 56-percent free-throw shooter at the line. He went 1-for-4 before coach Dave Blatt pulled him from the game.
James, who had 13 of Cleveland's 21 points in the fourth, sealed the win by stripping Barton twice and scoring on fast-break dunks in the final 1:56.
"I was just trying to put a stamp on the game and finish the game the right way," James said.
NOTES: Cavaliers G Kyrie Irving did not play in a planned absence. The team has been resting him on second nights of back-to-back games since he returned from a fractured kneecap. Irving said Monday in Phoenix that this will be the last time he will miss a back-to-back. ... Nuggets coach Michael Malone said F Danilo Gallinari could return Saturday from a left ankle sprain. Gallinari, the team's leading scorer, has missed five games. ... Cleveland F Kevin Love played despite taking a hit to the hand during Monday's win over the Suns. ... Nuggets C Jusuf Nurkic could make his season debut on Saturday. Nurkic has been out all season after having surgery to repair a tear in his left patella tendon. "It's almost seven months but I generally feel good," Nurkic said. "I can't wait."