The Denver Nuggets pressed the pace and then turned it up a notch in the fourth quarter.
And the Miami Heat couldn’t keep up, especially once Dwyane Wade was injured.
Ty Lawson scored 24 points in his return to the lineup, and the Nuggets sent the Heat to their third straight loss with a 117-104 victory on Friday night.
”When they crashed our defense, they got threes and when we tried to stay home, they got layups,” said LeBron James, whose 35 points led the Heat. ”They just broke us down too many times. They broke our defense down too many times and they were able to pretty much get anything they wanted.”
Nene added 17 points for the Nuggets, who won their 10th in a row against the Heat in Denver. Rudy Fernandez and Al Harrington each added 15 points.
Lawson, who was held out of Wednesday’s game against New Jersey because of a right foot sprain, also had nine assists.
”My emphasis at every timeout was don’t stop running,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. ”Try to run every possession. I don’t know if they didn’t want to play that pace, but Wade getting hurt probably helped us.”
Wade scored 12 points before landing awkwardly on his right ankle after trying to block a shot with 7:24 remaining. He lay on the floor for several moments before gingerly making his way to the bench. He didn’t return and remains questionable for the Heat’s next game Tuesday at home against San Antonio.
”I hope I can play. It’s my birthday,” Wade said as he soaked the foot in a bucket of ice. Wade said X-rays were negative, but he described the sprain as very painful.
”Unfortunately, when the bug hits you, it hits you,” said Wade, who also strained a calf during an overtime loss to the Los Angeles Clippers two nights ago. ”I’ll just continue to get therapy. Nothing I can do. Stuff like that happens in sports.”
Chris Bosh added 17 points for Miami, which was outscored 31-23 in the fourth quarter. The Nuggets led by as many as 19 points in the period, the largest deficit Miami has dealt with this season.
”This was a tough one tonight,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. ”Sometimes you’re never quite as good as you think you are or as bad as you think you are. They play well here. They’re relentless in the open court. But we’ll get better. We’ll go home, get healthy and get ready for an inspirational game on Tuesday.”
Harrington hit a bank shot and connected on a three-pointer on successive possessions before Udonis Haslem made a pair of free throws for Miami near the end of the third, and Denver took an 86-81 lead into the final period.
From there, the Nuggets took control, scoring the first nine points of the fourth to go in front 95-81. The run included a breakaway dunk by Fernandez and three points on free throws after Wade drew a technical for arguing over a charging call and then fouled Nene in the lane.
James made one of two free throws to break up the string, but the Nuggets kept up the pressure, as Andre Miller converted a three-point play and Nene drove in for a layup around a dunk by Bosh.
”It was huge,” Lawson said of the Nuggets’ strong finish. ”’Dre running the offense, getting everybody involved, getting easy shots from steals to rebounds, that’s what we need to keep doing. Get stops and then run out. That probably sparked our team winning.”
Trailing by as many as 14 points in the first quarter, Miami pulled within 55-53 at halftime when James swished a three-pointer over Danilo Gallinari with 31 seconds left in the second period.
NOTES: Nene matched a season high with 12 rebounds. … Wade went without a blocked shot, ending a career high-tying string of 11 consecutive games with at least one. … Miami last won at the Pepsi Center on Jan. 29, 2002, 100-94 in OT. … James has scored more than 30 points in his last five games against Denver but he’s 2-3 in that span.