After going on a two-game win streak, The Miami Heat (18-18) played the first of their five game road trip at mile high city with a loss to the Denver Nuggets (23-12), 124-119. The loss to the Nuggets subsequently drops the Heat from the 6th seed down to the 7th, in a tie with the New York Knicks.
Once again the injury riddled season continues to plague the Heat as multiple key rotational pieces were unavailable in the matchup. The Heat were without Caleb Martin (strained quad), Victor Oladipo (left knee), Ömer Yurtseven (left ankle), and Dewayne Dedmon who is listed under the health and safety protocols. As for the Nuggets, they were without Jeff Green (finger; sprain/hand fracture) and Collin Gillespie (right leg fracture).
The first quarter of play was a struggle for the Heat as they were held to 20% shooting from the field and 27% from three while the Nuggets were efficient (50% from the field and 33% from three). During the second quarter, the defense was nonexistent as both squads improved their shooting efficiency tremendously in that quarter alone with the Heat now at 65% from the field and 56% from three while the Nuggets were at 75% from the field and 83% from three. The half had concluded with the Nuggets ahead 60-57 with each team’s bench players leading in the scoring column Max Strus with 13 points (Heat) and Bones Hyland with 12 points (Nuggets).
The Heat carried their performance from the second quarter into the start of the new half as they continued to score above the 50% mark while locking in on the defensive side of the ball. The Heat’s defense held the Nuggets to 36% shooting from the field while causing 8 turnovers during the duration of that period. It was because of the brilliant play and extra effort the Heat had put on the defensive side of the ball that helped them go on a 21-11 run which ultimately allowed them to regain the lead and amount to one as large as 9 points. The Nuggets had managed to stay within striking distance heading into the fourth quarter as the score was 90-85 by the end of the third. The Nuggets response was one that proved to be all too much for the Heat as they scored a total of 39 points in the fourth while shooting 81% from the field and 100% from three which helped them obtain the victory.
Tyler Herro led the way in the scoring department for the Heat with 26 points while grabbing 9 rebounds. The Heat also had other key contributors such as Bam Adebayo with 22 points, Max Strus with 19 points, Jimmy Butler with 17 points and 8 assists, and Orlando Robinson with 13 points. Duncan Robinson also had himself a night to remember as his 3 threes helped him move past Tim Hardaway to become the all-time leader in the franchise for 3-pointers made.
As for the Nuggets they practically had their whole entire team with double-digits in the scoring column. However, the two most notable players were Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with 20 points while capitalizing on of the shots he took (7-7 field goal) and the reigning MVP Nikola Jokić notching a triple-double with the following stats: 19 points, 12 rebounds, and 12 assists.
The Miami Heat (18-18) will have another shot at ending the year off right with a victory against the Utah Jazz (19-19). Since starting the season off 10-3, the Jazz have found themselves back in reality as a team amidst a rebuild rather than playoff contention. On the season, the Jazz have a top 4 ranked offense, averaging 117.1 points per game with their defense ranked as the 8th worst across the league, allowing 116.3.
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