Heat finally snap 10-year winless drought in Denver
DENVER—The Miami Heat’s decade-long drought in Denver is history.
LeBron James had 27 points and 12 assists as the short-handed Heat beat the Nuggets 98-93 last night—holding on despite having played four games in five nights and missing two starters.
Shane Battier added 18 points—all on three-pointers—in the Heat’s first win at Denver since Jan. 29, 2002—a streak of 10-straight losses.
Every other NBA team has won at the Pepsi Center during that span.
“This is a tough building to play in, especially when you get in at 5 in the morning because this altitude is nothing to play with,” James noted.
“So, I just tried to go to another level, I just tried to find a little bit of energy to help our team win the ballgame, and fortunately I was able to do that.”
The Heat nearly blew a 19-point second-half lead, but held on despite being without Dwyane Wade (foot) and Mario Chalmers, who went to the bench after just seven-and-a-half minutes with a strained right triceps.
Even James had an ice pack on his right shoulder after the game.
“Yeah, it’s a little sore,” he admitted.
Andre Miller had 19 points and Kenneth Faried led the Nuggets with 16 points and a career-high 20 rebounds as Denver out-rebounded Miami 48-29 and outscored the Heat 50-24 in the paint.
But the Heat kept their turnovers down and hit 13 three-pointers. Battier and Mike Miller combined for 10 of them.
“You’ve got Wade out and you surround LeBron James with three-point shooters and they knock them down,” lamented Andre Miller.
Ty Lawson, who is averaging 13.5 points, didn’t score.
Lawson would have given Denver its first lead of the night with 5:35 to go, but his breakaway basket was waved off when he was whistled for an offensive foul for running over Battier.
Coming off a loss to the L.A. Clippers 24 hours earlier, the Heat looked primed for a letdown at altitude but instead never trailed in beating Denver for the second time in two weeks.
“It just seems like when you come here, based on the geographical location, that the team is always catching us,” Ray Allen said.
“You come out from the East Coast to the West Coast,” he noted. “You never play this game first, you play this on the back-to-back night.
“You lose an hour and you come in late, so this game always gets you.
“But we just managed it from the beginning,” Allen added. “We didn’t let ourselves get behind.”
Allen, who had the go-ahead four-point play with 6.7 seconds left in a 119-116 win over Denver in Miami on Nov. 3, sank a three-pointer just before halftime that gave the Heat a 54-42 lead at the break.
The Heat went up 70-51 on back-to-back threes by Mike Miller and Battier, and still led 79-66 heading into the fourth quarter, when the Nuggets cut the Heat’s lead to one point on a couple of occasions—but kept blowing chances to go ahead.
Elsewhere in the NBA, New York beat San Antonio 104-100 and Brooklyn downed Boston 102-97.