The Heat, winless in Denver since 2002, was without starters Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers. Naturally, Miami won.
Norris Cole rattled down a three-pointer from the corner with 51.4 seconds left to give the Heat a four-point lead and Miami hung on for a 98-93 victory in an entertaining game in the Mile High City.
Cole was 2 of 11 from the field before knocking down one of the biggest shots of his young career. He was wide, wide, wide-as-a-barn-door open when LeBron James found him with the corner of his eye and whipped a pass out to the perimeter. Cole didn’t hesitate.
“LeBron broke the defense down and I was open and he found me and I was able to knock it down for the team,” Cole said.
Considering the three-pointer helped snap the Heat’s 0-10 streak in Denver, it was perhaps Cole’s biggest basket since the clutch shot he made against Boston in last season’s home opener.
“That was the first home game of my rookie year, so that felt great but tonight, on a road trip, we needed a win against a good team road,” Cole said. “This one was satisfying also.”
Cole finished with seven points in 39 minutes and played well defensively in place of Chalmers, who left the game in the first quarter with a strained triceps. Cole helped hold Denver guard Ty Lawson scoreless for the first time since February 2011.
While Cole struggled offensively for most of the night before knocking down his clutch shot, his three-pointer was an extension of Heat’s success from outside throughout the game. The Heat was 13 of 27 from three-point range, with Shane Battier going 6 of 7 from three-point range for 18 points. Mike Miller, filling in for Wade, made 4 of 8 attempts from behind the arc for 12 points.
Battier had a tough night, having to deal defensively with Kenneth Faried, who is the Nuggets’ version of Dennis Rodman. Faried had 16 points and 20 rebounds, including 11 on the offensive glass.
“I know I’m small. That’s fine. I’m tough and I’m going to fight guys every single night,” said Battier, sporting shiner under his right eye from an encounter with Zach Randolph’s elbow earlier in the week.
The Heat is now 15-3 without Wade in the lineup since last season. Wade missed Thursday’s game with a strained left foot. He scored six points on Wednesday night in the Heat’s loss to the Clippers. Wade has never won a game in Denver in which he played.
LeBron James finished with 27 points, seven rebounds and a season-high 12 assists. He had 15 points in the second half and a team-high eight points in the final period.
Miami committed just 11 turnovers. Chalmers, Wade and James combined for 12 of the Heat’s 19 turnovers on Wednesday against the Clippers. The Heat led by as many as 19 points in the third quarter.
The Heat won despite six Nuggets scoring in double figures and Denver out-rebounding the Heat 48-29.
“We came out to play,” James said. “We played a great game for three quarters and we knew they were going to make a run, but we came to far to let that game slip away from us.”