LeBron leads Heat past Nuggets 98-93

By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP SPORTS WRITER

Posted Nov. 16 2012 12:32 a.m.

DENVER (AP) -- The Miami Heat's decade-long drought in Denver is history.

LeBron James had 27 points and 12 assists, and the short-handed Heat beat the Nuggets 98-93 Thursday night, holding on despite having played four games in five nights and missing two starters.

''We came out to play,'' James said. ''We played great for three quarters and we knew they were going to make a run and we came too far to let that game slip away from us.''

Shane Battier added 18 points - all on 3-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 said. ''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 7 1/2 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 said.

Andre Miller had 19 points and Kenneth Faried led the Nuggets with 16 points and a career-high 20 rebounds as Denver outrebounded Miami 48-29 and outscored the Heat 50-24 in the paint. But the Heat kept their turnovers down and hit 13 3-pointers. Battier and Mike Miller combined for 10 of them.

''You've got Wade out and you surround LeBron James with 3-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 remaining, but his breakaway basket was waived off when he was whistled for an offensive foul for running over Battier.

''That's demoralizing,'' Miami's Ray Allen said, ''because you make a great defensive play when they had numbers offensively. It's just those intangible plays that at the end of the year it's got you five or six wins.''

Coming off a loss to the 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 even though the Nuggets outrebounded them 48-29 and outscored them in the paint 50-24.

''It just seems like when you come here, based on the geographical location, that the team is always catching us,'' Allen said. ''You come out from the East Coast to the West Coast. 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. And this was a setup game for us. But we just managed it from the beginning. 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 3-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 3s 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.

JaVale McGee had 18 points, including a hook shot after getting the inbounds with just 0.4 seconds left on the shot clock that made it 79-74, and the Nuggets chipped away until Andre Miller's three-point play pulled Denver to 85-84.

That's when Lawson had a breakaway as the crowd cheered what it thought was Denver's first lead of the night.

After missing two free throws, Faried made two, pulling Denver to 92-89. Andre Iguodala's two foul shots at 1:37 made it a one-point game again.

Allen missed a 3, but Danilo Gallinari rushed a long-range 3-pointer with about 15 seconds left on the shot clock that missed the basket by several feet.

''At that moment we were wearing them out a little bit, the momentum was on our side, keep attacking, that would be my choice,'' Nuggets coach George Karl said. ''The hustle, the energy was on our side, so don't go out of character. That was somewhat out of personality. We don't pull quick 3s.''

James fed Norris Cole, who made the Nuggets pay for Gallinari's gaffe with a 3-pointer at the other end for a 95-91 lead.

Gallinari then mistakenly let the ball go out of bounds at midcourt, giving possession back to Miami, and James sank two free throws with 23 seconds left to ice it.

Notes: Wade was held out because of a sprained left foot a night after scoring just six points - well below his 18.4-point average - in Miami's 107-100 loss to the Clippers. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the move was cautionary, emphasizing, ''It's not anything major. He has a bunch of little, minor, nagging injuries, so we'll continue to take it day by day.'' ... Faried's previous best was 17 rebounds.

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Reach out to Arnie Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

Copyright 2012 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited

NUGGETS STAR OF THE GAME

Points 19, 7-9 FGs, 2-2 3FGs
Rebounds 5, 3 OFF 2 DEF
Assists 7
Steals 2
Blocks 0
GAME LEADERS

Points LeBron James 27, 11-23 FG
Rebounds Kenneth Faried 20, 11 OFF 9 DEF
Assists James 12
Steals Faried, Ty Lawson 2
Blocks James 4
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT

George Karl on Miami's 13-for-27 three-point shooting:

The three-ball was probably why we lost the game. Statistically, the three-ball was definitively where we lost the game.

Key Moment

Corner 3-pointer by Heat guard Norris Cole in the 4th Quarter

The Nuggets trailed by as many as 19 points in the second-half but closed to within to a point with 1:37 remaining. Denver had a chance to take the lead, but Danilo Gallinari missed a 3-pointer in transition and Cole countered with a corner 3 with 51.4 seconds left.

VIDEO RECAP

Postgame Quotes

Nuggets coach George Karl

On his strategy in protecting the perimeter:

“Basically, our whole idea was to know who you are playing against. That was one of the priorities. We wanted to do a better job on [Chris] Bosh, which I think we did and [Shane] Battier playing four gives them the matchup that, if you don’t stay in that zone, it’s just a different zone for them to cover. I thought early we fell asleep on our assignments. As the game went on, I thought we did a much better job recognizing situations and circumstances. I was really disappointed in the first quarter. I thought we lost the game in the first quarter with [Mike] Miller and [Shane] Battier both finding the three-ball. So then having the confidence of when to plug and when to help on LeBron [James] was sometimes there and sometimes not. Early in the game, the first play I think actually, I thought Kenneth [Faried] over-helped on a LeBron [James] drive and that’s how Kenneth is. He is going to have to learn to adjust his shooters. He does a wonderful job giving us a lot of energy and a lot of extra possessions and is fun to watch but he, along with a lot of guys, we have to be more mentally into doing our jobs and being solid and less emotional at times.”

On the inability to run on the Heat:
“I said at halftime that I thought [Miami] had the pride. The pride of this game was like they lost to us. They were playing with an attitude. I know [Miami] haven’t won here in a long time and I am sure they talked about it. Knowing LeBron, he finds ways to get himself ready to play. They played a lot of guys that they didn’t play last game. [Mike] Miller was a big factor. The [Norris] Cole kid makes a shot and they are p-laying their bench a little bit more. I thought the game was coming our way, fatigue-wise, in the fourth quarter. There is no question that we are not wearing teams out like we did last year and I think a little bit is that we are not creating a lot of offense with turnovers. We have to create more offense with good defense and we have to start making shots, we have to make free throws and we have to make threes.”

On what the Heat were doing to stop Ty Lawson’s effectiveness:
“[Miami] are a jump team. They jump most pick and rolls. I think they were trying to stay uptight and not give Ty [Lawson] a lot of space. We didn’t get the random pick and rolls or the random opportunities in transition. And when we did get them, I think Ty was a passer more than aggressor. The second chance points and the fast break points, we won those areas. The three ball is probably why we lost the game.”

Nuggets point guard Andre Miller

On Miami’s fast start:
“The first quarter was pretty much the deciding point of the game. That, and them [Miami] knocking down threes. You’ve got Dwayne Wade out, and then you surround LeBron James with three-point shooters, and he uses them and they knock them down.”

On how to play LeBron James:
“He’s not that type of a player. Just by him being on the court, he’s not going to force too many shots at the basket. He knows how to play within the game and keep guys involved. You know [James] knew that, we knew that too. We knew that we needed to cover him and stop the three. He did both; he scored and got his teammates involved.”

On not being able to run the Heat:
“They [The Heat] are a smart team. They’ve got guys that have been to the finals. You’ve got veterans like Mike Miller, Rashard Lewis, Ray Allen, Shane Battier, those guys over there are smart and know how to control the game and know how to take out a transition. They did that, they were able to control the transition, control our rebounding a little bit, and just play within themselves.”

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra

On the win:
“It’s a good character win. After the week that we’ve had, a little bit of adversity, Dwayne [Wade] being out, Mario [Chambers] having to come out in the first quarter and then the challenge playing on the west coast to here, we didn’t want to come in with any excuses. And the thing about this ball club, the one thing you can’t knock them about, is rising to challenges and I could tell from the walkthrough today, it wasn’t about showing up and lying down but really trying to overcome the odds. Everyone was so well aware of what the record is the last three to four years when you’re coming from the west coast. It shows the character of our group and hopefully we can build on consistency. We know about that but now we need to build on the other part.”

On overcoming some of the same things as when Miami played Denver in Miami two weeks ago:
“That’s something we have been talking about for the last ten days or so is showing the mental collective stability and resolve. Things are going to happen and things are not going to go your way particularly when you are on the road. You have to weather many storms. Andre Miller had a tremendous fourth quarter, they had some big plays to get back into the game but instead of collapsing our spirit, we showed a little more resolve this time. We found a way to make some plays at the end. It was good to see three trust plays at the end even though Ray [Allen] missed two of them. Those were the right plays and then LeBron hit Norris [Cole] for a big three down the stretch.”

On Norris Cole:
“[Norris] is a tough kid. He is not afraid of the moment so he has a way of forgetting about anything that happened before that. It really wasn’t about his misses with that. He played a solid game and defensively, he really did a job of helping us keep the ball in front of us for the majority of the game.”

On Shane Battier:
“I can’t speak enough about Shane’s impact on this organization in the last year and a half. It is one of the reasons we recruited him so hard. We wanted him as a part of this organization for the last five or six years and we waited for our time in free agency to be able to make it happen. There are so many little things: his mental stability, his leadership and he has a way when you leave him open, he’ll make big ones and he did that tonight. He got us off to a good start with his three’s and we were able to keep the momentum going.”

Miami Heat forward LeBron James

On the team's trust
“That’s the type of team we have, it doesn’t matter who passes the ball or shoots the ball. We are going to find the guy that is open, and we have confidence in the guy that he will have confidence in himself and knock it down.”

On the fourth quarter mentality:
“We came too far, we were here. We came out to play; we played a great game for three quarters. We knew [Nuggets] were going to make a run, but we came too far to let that game slip away from us. And for me as a leader, I’ve got to try to make plays. We grind it out, [Nuggets] out rebounded us, almost double, but we kept our turnovers low. That was a real key thing. We kept our turnovers low and we executed offensively. We had some great passes and some great assists. Our three point shooters Mike [Miller] and Shane [Battier] and a big one by [Norris] Cole at the end; they knocked shots down tonight. They opened the floor for us, for me in particular. Shane came out and was unconscious from three, Mike came out and hit some big ones, and we needed every last one of them.”

On his play:
“With me being on the floor, I’ve got to find a way. This is a tough building to play in, especially when you get in at five o’clock in the morning. And this altitude is nothing to play with. I just tried to go to another level and find a little bit of energy to make a few plays to help our team win the ball game. I was fortunate I was able to do that.”

Miami Heat forward Shane Battier

On his performance:
“That’s the take, I give every night with size, but the take is I’m going to get some open looks. I’m going to have nights like this just because the big guys are not used to following a three point shooter. That’s how we draw it up. It doesn’t really work that way, but tonight it worked out fine.”

On his attitude:
“I don’t get caught up in points and rebounds. [Kenneth] Faried had ten offensive rebounds, but I blocked him out as best as I could. I don’t know how many second chance points that led to. I played pretty good post defense; guys weren’t really scoring on me when the ball was thrown to them [defenders] in the post. I don’t overreact; I don’t think I’m doing a bad job. I’m fighting and that’s the most important thing. I know I’m small and that’s fine, but I’m tough and I’m going to fight guys every single night. They think they can just bully me; I have to show guys that ‘you know what, you may get your points and rebounds, but you’re going to be sore tomorrow. You’re going to get some elbows and some hard box out, and that’s fine by me.”

INDIVIDUAL

  • By collecting 20 rebounds in tonight’s game, Kenneth Faried became the first Nugget to record 20+ boards in a single game since Carmelo Anthony on 11/15/10 at Phoenix (22 rebounds). It marked a new career high for the forward (previous – 17, 11/10/12 at GSW).
  • Faried also became only the sixth Nugget player to collect 11 offensive rebounds in a game and the first since Carmelo Anthony did so on 12/20/07 vs. Houston (12 offensive rebounds). It marked a new career high (previous – 9 on 11/10/12 at GSW and 11/7/12 at HOU). It is his third game this season with nine-or-more offensive boards.
  • Faried also scored 16 points in the game, marking the third game this season that the forward has recorded 15+ rebounds and 15+ points in the same game.
  • JaVale McGee scored 18 points, registered six rebounds and blocked four shots in tonight’s game. It marks the seventh time in his career that he has registered 18+ points, six-plus rebounds and four-plus blocks in a game (first with Nuggets).
  • Andre Miller scored 19 points, dished out seven assists and recorded five rebounds tonight. It marks the 101st time in his career that he has scored 15+ points, handed out five-or-more dimes, and grabbed five-or-more boards (first this season).
  • Ty Lawson didn’t score a point in the contest, marking only the eighth time in his career that he has failed to score a single point. It is the first time since 2/16/11 at Milwaukee (0-12 FG).
  • LeBron James scored 27 points tonight for the Heat, marking his 10th straight game with 20+ points. It his longest streak to start a season in his career.

TEAM

  • The Nuggets lost their first home game of the year and snapped their 10-game home winning streak over Miami by losing 98-93 tonight.
  • Miami swept the 2012-13 season series 2-0, their first series sweep since the 2001-02 campaign.
  • Denver Outrebounded Miami 48-29 tonight, giving them a +34 rebounding advantage in their two games vs. Miami this year (95 to 61). The Nuggets have now outrebounded their opponent in eight of their nine games.
  • The Nuggets converted on 22 second chance points tonight, their third game of the year with 20+ second chance points. Denver came into tonight’s game averaging 19.0 second chance points, good for first in the NBA.
  • The Heat connected on 13 threes in tonight’s game, an opponent season-high.