MIAMI, FL - MARCH 19: Forward LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat dunks against the Denver Nuggets at American Airlines Arena on March 19, 2011 in Miami, Florida. The Heat defeated the Nuggets 103-98. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
It seems like this stretch of games has lasted forever, but tonight was the last in a streak of 11-straight games against above .500 opponents for the Heat. Miami has done a good job finishing it off, getting nice revenge wins over the Spurs and Grizzlies in the past week, and tonight they got another win against a team that they had previously lost to. The Denver Nuggets had beaten Miami by 28 points in their first meeting, but the Heat took care of business last night, leading the game from start to finish.
While both teams were playing for the second consecutive night, Miami came out looking like an amazingly fresh team. They took a quick 6-0 lead in the games first 47 seconds and started the game on a 10-0 run over the opening 3½ minutes. Denver started the game hitting just 1 of their first 10 shots, not getting any easy looks thanks to some very tough Heat defense.
LeBron James picked up right where he left off last night in Atlanta, bringing the fans inside the AAA to their feet on back-to-back possessions late in the quarter. He first caught a Mario Chalmers ally-oop pass from with 1 hand and slammed it home all in one motion, then on Miami's next trip down the floor found some open space and stretched out for a massive tomahawk jam. That capped off LeBron scoring 9 straight points for the Heat.
Denver went on a 12-2 run late in the 1st to get back in the game, shrinking a 16-point deficit to just 6. The Heat also lost Mario Chalmers to the locker room, getting carried back there by Juwan Howard after spraining his right knee while defending Ty Lawson. Rio wouldn't return to the game and the story from the Heat locker room was that he'll have an MRI on Sunday to see the extent of the injury.
After the Heat started the game by outscoring Denver 25-9, the Nuggets came back with a 25-10 run of their own to pull within one point of Miami. That was followed up by the Heat scoring 10 straight points, and then Denver scored 7 in a row, so the streakiness of these teams was at a high as the 2nd quarter wore on. When halftime finally rolled around, Miami led by 9.
D-Wade and LeBron accounted for 36 of the Heat's 56 1st half points, combining to shoot 14-of-19. The Nuggets got a few early points when the 2nd half started, but then Miami went on an 11-2 run and started to rebuild their lead, getting it at one point back up to 16. Not surprising, Denver responded with a 10-2 run of their own...and I'm starting to feel like I'm being repetitive by talking about all these runs, but that's just the way this game was going.
The Nuggets got back within 4 points of Miami in the early stages of the 4th quarter, but as I'm sure you would've expected, the Heat would respond with a 10-0 run to bump the lead right back up to 14. As most of us Heat followers would expect, JR Smith hit a few late shots to keep Denver within striking distance, but ultimately it wouldn't be enough to keep Miami from winning their 5th game in their last 6 chances.
- Joel Anthony blocked 3 shots in the first 2½ minutes of the 2nd quarter and finished the game with 4.
- Erick Dampier grabbed 9 rebounds and had 2 blocks without attempting a shot of his own.
- The Big 3 combined to score 83 points, the 2nd time this week they scored 80+. Miami is now 22-3 when they score at least 75.
- LeBron finished with 33 points and D-Wade picked up 32. It's the 4th time this season that both scored 30+ in the same game.
- Chris Bosh picked up his 5th straight double double, finishing with 18 points and 11 boards.
- Miami continues to shoot well from the foul line, hitting 25-of-29 last night.
- Denver had two players crack 20 points, both coming off the bench.
- One of them was JR Smith, who continues to scorch the Heat. He led the Nuggets with 27 points and hit another 4 triples, giving him a total of 12 on the season against Miami.
- Mike Bibby filled in nicely for Mario Chalmers after he went down in the 1st half with a knee injury. Bibby finished with 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including 4 from downtown.
The Heat now get a couple days off before heading up to Detroit for their final meeting of the season with the Pistons. Miami has 12 games left and sit 2 games back of Boston and Chicago who are tied at the top of the Eastern Conference.