Nuggets go nine-deep, run past Miami at Pepsi Center
Lawson posts 24 points and nine assists to lead balanced attack
For one night, at least, the Nuggets Nine trumped Miami’s Big Three.
Ty Lawson had 24 points to lead six Nuggets in double-figures and Denver made a strong statement Friday night at Pepsi Center, pulling away in the fourth quarter for a 117-104 win over the Heat.
Illustrating the benefits of depth at every position, Denver also got 17 points and 12 rebounds from Nene, 15 points each from reserves Rudy Fernandez and Al Harrington and a season-high 12 points and eight rebounds from center Timofey Mozgov.
“There were a lot of contributions tonight,” said Nuggets coach George Karl, who employed an effective nine-man rotation. “Timo, it was by far his best game for us. I thought Al in the third quarter was really important. Ty was pretty much our motor the whole night. He was pretty spectacular in a very big-time game. Nene was consistent. A lot of people helped win the game.”
The Heat was essentially one-dimensional as LeBron James led all scorers with 35 points. Chris Bosh added 17 but missed 9 of 15 shots, and Dwyane Wade had just 12 before leaving in the fourth quarter with a sprained right ankle and Miami trailing by 14 points.
Adding insult to injury, Wade remained winless in eight trips to Denver, while Bosh fell to 1-7.
“It was a good statement for sure,” said Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari, who scored 14 points. “We wanted to play well. When you play against one of the best teams in the league and the best players in the league, you always want to prove your best.”
Gallinari hit three of Denver’s season-high 12 three-pointers. After going 41-for-159 (.258) in their first eight games, the Nuggets are 39-for-82 (.476) from beyond the arc over the past four games.
“I think the big thing for us was our three-ball,” Karl said. “Now, when Arron shoots, I think it’s going in. Rudy’s the same way, and Gallo’s pretty good, too.”
Four of Lawson’s nine assists came on three-point shots by his teammates, including two by Fernandez that helped push Denver’s lead to as many as 19 points in the fourth quarter. Lawson made 9 of 11 shots and showed no ill effects of the strained right foot that kept him out of Wednesday’s game against the New Jersey Nets.
“Just a little added motivation playing against one of the best teams in the league,” Lawson said. “I just wanted to come out and show a good game.”
The win left Denver and Miami with identical 8-4 records, and showed a nationally televised audience that the Nuggets should be taken seriously despite lacking a player with past All-Star credentials. Bosh, James and Wade have combined to make 19 All-Star appearances.
“Every day we need to prove ourselves,” Nene said. “Every day, we need to kill the lion. We played together. We helped each other. We neutralized Bosh, LeBron and Wade. That was great. Timo took a big step tonight, Al Harrington, Rudy … all the guys who came into the game, they helped each other.”
Harrington scored five straight points after Miami closed to within two late in the third quarter, and his fadeaway jumper sparked a 9-0 run to start the fourth. Denver led by 14 at that point, and the Heat never got closer than 13 the rest of the way.
“We were able to crawl back and get competitive, but every time we did, they would go on a 10-0 run,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We are a no-excuses team and we were unable to get it done, but you have to give Denver credit.”
After an attention-getting win over the defending Eastern Conference champions and odds-on NBA title favorites, the Nuggets can expect to receive some more credit from observers outside Denver.
Not that they necessarily want the spotlight.
“We’re trying to stay under the radar,” Lawson said. “We don’t need all the press. We’re just going to try to get in the playoffs and make a lot of noise.”
Notes: James has scored at least 35 points four times against Denver in his career. His teams are 0-4 in those games … The Nuggets have now won 10 straight home games against the Heat and 11 of 13 overall … Miami’s 19-point deficit in the fourth quarter was its largest of the season.