(Photo Credit: Bart Young)
The Miami HEAT defeated the Denver Nuggets 97-94 Monday night at the Pepsi Center. The shorthanded HEAT got their offense going in the fourth quarter to clinch the win.
Impact Performance of the Night: LeBron James led the HEAT to a victory on his 29th birthday with 26 points, 10 assists and six rebounds. James drilled five three-pointers, a couple of which kept the HEAT afloat during some offensive lulls. In the fourth quarter, James was a facilitator down the stretch, finding open HEAT shooters along the perimeter. With Dwyane Wade and Norris Cole leaving the game early due to injury, James took over the playmaking reins. He attacked the Nuggets in the post and off the bounce, only to turn and fire passes to Ray Allen, Chris Bosh and Michael Beasley. It was a strong overall performance from James.
The Deciding Run: The HEAT trailed the Nuggets by three points with 6:50 left to play. The offense was struggling to create open looks against the Denver defense and the Nuggets were getting to the rim with regularity. That changed after Ty Lawson made a pair of free throws. Chris Bosh made a pair of jumpers to get things going for the HEAT. Ray Allen followed with a three and the HEAT offense started to roll. Over the last 6:50 the HEAT outscored the Nuggets 18-12 to grab the victory.
Play of the Game: Down the stretch, Miami struggled to put the Nuggets away. The HEAT would take a lead and the Nuggets would respond. With 50 seconds left Wilson Chandler got a dunk to pull the Nuggets within one. The HEAT called a timeout to set up the offense. LeBron James isolated against Chandler in the left corner as the shot clock wound down. With just a handful of seconds left James attacked the paint, sucking in the Nuggets defense. Once the defense committed to James, he kicked out a pass to Michael Beasley at the top of the arc. Beasley calmly fired from deep, hitting nothing but net. His basket gave the HEAT a three-point lead and enough cushion to pull out the win.
Efficiency Rating: Offensive Efficiency: 111.1; Defensive Efficiency: 101.2
Trend to Watch: For the second straight game, the HEAT found themselves in a hole in the fourth quarter. Against the Blazers, the HEAT were able to knock down a few jumpers late to secure the win. Tonight’s win followed much of the same script, this time with Michael Beasley and Ray Allen playing the part of Chris Bosh. The HEAT’s season long shooting numbers remain strong, but they had been slumping from three-point range. Tonight was the HEAT’s second straight game shooting over 40-percent from deep, with a couple of makes coming in the clutch. What makes the HEAT so dangerous is that they surround LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade with dangerous shooters. When they’re hitting, the HEAT become really hard to stop. Shane Battier got things going early in the game, helping out the offense. Allen and Beasley hit some big shots late, sealing the victory. If the HEAT shooters can get into a groove, the team will be quite dangerous in the New Year.
The Takeaway: We’ve often stressed process over results in this space, and in that regard, tonight’s game wasn’t so great. The HEAT offense was stagnant for long stretches and the defense gave up 48 points in the paint. LeBron James hit a bunch of threes that weren’t in rhythm to keep things afloat long enough for the HEAT to turn things around. To be fair, the HEAT were dealing with a great deal of adversity. Chris Andersen was out again and both Dwyane Wade and Norris Cole were forced out of the game by injury. In Cole and Andersen, the HEAT lost their energy players off the bench. In Wade, the HEAT lost one of their primary offensive hubs. Also, this was the last game of a four-game road trip at a high altitude. All of that is what makes the HEAT win impressive. They didn’t play the basketball that they’re known for, but they were able to claw their way to a win. Down the stretch, once the closing lineup was able to get a few possessions under their belt, things got much smoother. James started to work more in the high and mid post, getting open looks for himself and others. The most important takeaway from tonight’s game is the team’s mental makeup. They were dealt a tough hand and still found a way to make it work,
Notes: Chris Bosh finished with 17 points and five rebounds. Ray Allen scored 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds off the bench. Dwyane Wade scored 12 points in 18 minutes. Mario Chalmers tallied 10 points and nine assists. Chris Andersen and Greg Oden were inactive.