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James and Heat take down struggling Nuggets
Denver, CO (SportsNetwork.com) - LeBron James celebrated his 29th birthday with 26 points and 10 assists to lead the Miami Heat to a 97-94 win over the Denver Nuggets from Pepsi Center.
Chris Bosh scored 17 points on the heels of his Eastern Conference Player of the Week honor, while Ray Allen added 13 points off the bench in the win, Miami's eighth victory in its last nine tilts.
Dwyane Wade netted 12 points, but left early in the third quarter with back spasms and did not return.
"They are a very, very good team, especially at home," said James. "It was good that we were able to get this win."
Miami finished off its four-game West Coast road swing with a 3-1 mark.
Ty Lawson matched James with 26 points and added seven assists for Denver, which is in the midst of a season-high seven-game losing streak.
Wilson Chandler and Darrell Arthur each chipped in with 13 points, while JJ Hickson recorded a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds in the loss.
With the Heat holding an 89-87 advantage, Lawson drilled a 3 from the wing with 2:48 to play in the game.
James drained an elbow jumper on the ensuing possession with the shot clock winding down to regain the lead for the visitors.
Allen then followed with a running jumper -- also with the shot clock expiring -- to put the Heat up 93-90 with 1 1/2 minutes left.
The Nuggets called timeout and coach Brian Shaw drew up a perfect back-door play that ended with a Chandler slam to trim the deficit to one.
Of all players, Michael Beasley delivered what would ultimately be the dagger shot to end the game.
James drove and kicked to Beasley, who buried a trey at the top of the key to extend the Heat lead to 96-92 with 30 seconds left.
Foye made a quick driving layup and Allen was fouled, but only made 1-of-2 to leave the door open for Denver to tie.
Lawson dribbled the clock down and had Bosh dancing all around at the top of the circle. but his 3-pointer was off the mark. However, Udonis Haslem knocked the loose ball out of bounds with 1.8 seconds left.
The Nuggets couldn't get another shot off, though, as Hickson was whistled for a 5-second call and the Heat ran out the remainder of the clock.
"Valiant effort from our guys," said Shaw. "If we played with that kind of energy and that kind of tenacity we'll win more games than we lose.The biggest thing tonight is the third quarter."
Denver brought a 55-46 lead into the locker room, but Miami would open the third on a 13-0 run to grab a four-point edge 3:14 into the frame.
No team would lead by more than five after that.
Denver was 10-for-11 (90.9 percent) from the free throw line ... Randy Foye had 11 points with a season-high seven points in the loss ... Chris Andersen missed third straight game (body soreness) ... Miami shot 34-for-67 from the field (50.7 percent) ... Nuggets outscored the Heat in the paint 48-28 and in second chance points 18-7.
12/31 00:34:47 ET
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