Miami's visit to Pepsi Center provides early test for Nuggets

Heat arrive in Denver after back-to-back overtime losses

On the surface, Friday night’s game between the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat looks like a matchup of competing philosophies.

Built around marquee names such as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, the Heat is viewed as a band of traveling All-Stars who sell out arenas across the nation.

Built around talented young players such as Arron Afflalo, Danilo Gallinari, Ty Lawson and Nene, the Nuggets are trying to prove that NBA championships can be obtained without boasting MVP credentials.

Denver coach George Karl believes the Heat and Nuggets have more in common than most people might think.

“There’s not one guy on Miami’s team that doesn’t understand that ‘team’ is going to win championships,” Karl said after practice Thursday. “They’re a talented bunch of guys who have to commit to playing as a team – and they have.”

After winning eight of their first nine games, the Heat has dropped consecutive overtime games at Golden State and at the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Nuggets, meanwhile, are 5-1 at home and will be looking to build off the momentum of a 37-assist performance in Wednesday night’s 123-115 win over the New Jersey Nets.

“It’s going to be a tough game and a good test for us,” Nuggets guard Ty Lawson said. “A win’s a win, but you definitely want to see how you match up against the Heat because they’re one of the best teams so far.”

Lawson sat out Wednesday because of a strained right foot. As a precaution, he was limited in practice Thursday but expects to play against Miami.

“A lot of progress,” he said. “(Wednesday) before the game, I tried to shoot around and then when I went for my nap and woke up, it felt like somebody stabbed me in my foot. Feels a lot better right now. It feels a lot better right now.”

Lawson (16.4 ppg) is one of six Nuggets averaging in double figures, while the Heat are led by James (29.0 ppg), Wade (20.5) and Bosh (19.4). Miami leads the NBA in scoring (106.4 ppg), with Denver not far behind (103.6).

“I think it comes at a good time for us,” Karl said. “You always have 10 to 12 games a year that have a little more value than every other game. The Chicagos and Miamis, you want to play well against them. It’s a nationally televised game, and I think both teams are fairly explosive.”

Considering the collective scoring power on both sides, Friday’s game might come down to who executes better defensively.

Gallinari likely will draw the initial defensive assignment against James, and Afflalo will try to contain Wade.

“Individually, matchup-wise, there’s very few teams in the league that are going to come in with that type of talent,” Afflalo said. “It’s going to go back to a team defensive effort. Big picture, we have to take pride in that every night … The expectation is to win.”

Aaron Lopez
Aaron J. Lopez is the primary writer for, providing behind-the-scenes content, including feature stories and video for the site. Before joining the Nuggets in 2009, he spent 15 years covering Colorado sports for the Rocky Mountain News and the Associated Press, making him one of the longest-tenured sports writers in Denver. Aaron's full bio...