Miami brings road show to Pepsi Center for date with Nuggets
If you can’t stand the Heat, get out of the kitchen – and into the Pepsi Center.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the self-proclaimed “Heatles” (as in, The Beatles) make their only Denver appearance when they face the Nuggets in a nationally televised game Thursday night.
“There’s a show that’s coming to town,” Nuggets coach George Karl said Wednesday. “It’ll be interesting.”
It’s a game that fans, coaches and players alike have been looking forward to since the NBA released the 2010-11 schedule five months ago.
“I think everybody’s been waiting for this game and had it circled,” Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson said. “We’re ready for this game.”
South Beach became a polarizing location after James announced his decision to sign with Miami as a free agent in July. Bosh came on board shortly thereafter, creating a Big Three that sent a buzz throughout the NBA.
ESPN created a daily Heat Index and there were predictions that Miami would threaten the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ record of 72 wins.
The hype proved difficult to live up to as the Heat went 9-8 through 17 games, but they’ve been nearly unbeatable since the end of November. Taking a page out of the 2007 Colorado Rockies’ playbook, Miami won 21 of 22 games before losing to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night.
“It was (17) games into the season when people were counting them out,” Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony said. “You can’t do that with the caliber of players they’ve got on that team. It’s an 82-game season. They’re doing a great job of proving people wrong right now.”
Karl also was among those who figured Miami (30-10) would right the ship – not necessarily because of its talent but because of its mental toughness.
“They’re a talented bunch of guys but they’re also a play-hard bunch of guys,” Karl said. “Play-hard is so important to this game. When you get confused or you lose your confidence or you get a little distraction, what usually goes out the window first is playing with energy.”
As an example of that play-hard mentality, the Heat put together a 13-game road winning streak that was snapped by the Clippers at the Staples Center.
“That’s impressive,” Denver point guard Chauncey Billups said. “Most times you get those streaks going at home when you’ve got a crowd behind you and they’re going crazy. That tells me that they feed off other people’s crowd. That’s an awesome thing to have.”
Four of the top-five picks from the 2003 NBA Draft will share the court on Thursday night. James was the No. 1 overall pick, followed by Darko Milicic (now with Minnesota), Anthony, Bosh and Wade. Anthony and the Miami Big Three also played together on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team that won the gold medal in Beijing.
“I still talk to LeBron and D-Wade most of the time,” Anthony said. “I see Chris Bosh here and there in the summer.”
Anthony likely will start out guarding James. The matchup often brings out the best in Melo; he hit a game-winning shot over his good friend in Cleveland last Feb. 18.
“I love all challenges, not just (James),” he said. “Any great player, I like that challenge of knowing I’ve got to man up against one of the greats in the game.”
The Anthony-James comes in the wake of Denver's 34-point rout of the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday. The game featured a 52-point turnaround that saw the Nuggets trail by 14 points in the first quarter and lead by as many as 38 in the fourth.
"This is a time for us all to come together," Lawson said. "It’s another big game (Thursday) and we really need it."