Thanks in part to a masterful performance from rising Nuggets star Nikola Jokic, Denver outscored the Cavs 70-30 in the paint.
After the 126-113 loss, James said his team lacked toughness.
"It ain't about a group. It's about individuals," he said. "We've got to be more, just do more. It ain't about no group. You can't preach toughness. You've got to have it."
Though James led his team with 33 points on 11-of-22 shooting, the Cavs were outscored by 30 while he was on the court—they outscored Denver by 17 for the 21 minutes he was off the court. Only Kyle Korver (-14) had a plus-minus worse than -9.
"Personally? I had opportunities where I could have been better," James said before firing back with a rebuttal. "Um, one thing about it: I always bring toughness to the game. I know that. That's for sure."
Jokic missed just two shots, going 8-of-10 from the field for 16 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists in just 29 minutes.
He had a momentum-swinging post up of James late the in third quarter as the Nugs pulled away.
LeBron wasn't the only star to be roasted by the Serbian sophomore on the low block. Right, Kevin Love?
"LeBron will go down as one of the best players to ever play the game," said Denver head coach Mike Malone. "It's like a heavyweight fight and Nikola backing him down to finish, I think the crowd erupted in celebration because it was like a defining moment for Nikola.
"I'm sure Nikola will be showing that to his grandkids many years from now."
Jokic didn't think it was such a big deal, though, literally shrugging when asked about the play.
"I just tried to score," he said. "I didn't think that was him or whatever, I just wanted to score. That's it."