For the Miami Heat, the good days have outweighed the others in recent years, be it the introduction of LeBron James as a member of the team in July 2010 or the hoisting of the Larry O'Brien trophy last June.
Photographer: Doug Pensinger, Getty Images
Copyright Getty Images
DENVER -- Well, this made no sense.
Until, of course, LeBron James made sense of it all.
Playing on the second night of a back-to-back set at altitude after arriving to their team hotel at 5 a.m., lacking ailing Dwyane Wade and losing point guard Mario Chalmers in the first quarter, the Miami Heat were running on mile-high fumes Thursday night at the Pepsi Center, well positioned for more mile-high misery.
After 10 consecutive losses in Denver, 10 years of losses, this hardly was the scenario for a Heat breakthrough.
Not with Nuggets power forward Kenneth Faried dominating the boards and guard Andre Miller turning into Chris Paul early in the fourth quarter for Denver.
And yet there the Heat stood at the finish, 98-93 winners after James filled the box score to the tune of 27 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds, after Shane Battier drained six 3-pointers, after Norris Cole hit a huge late 3-pointer.
"We came too far," James said in terms of travel, of overcoming injury and of standing up 19 in the third quarter and only by one late in the fourth. "That's the type of team we have. We came too far to let this slip away from us."
So with Wade and Chalmers, the team's starting backcourt, reduced to spectators, James stepped up with a pass to Cole in a one-point game with 51.4 seconds to play and Cole, 2 of 11 to that point, nailed his 3-pointer.
"We didn't want to come in with any excuses," coach Erik Spoelstra said. "The one thing you can't knock them on is rising to challenges. It shows the character of our group."
And plenty of urging.
"At one point," Spoelstra said, "I mentioned, 'You can't be tired.' "
While Wade still has yet to win in Denver, a sprained left foot reducing him to spectator after he stumbled to a six-point outing in Wednesday's 107-100 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center, the curse has been lifted for the franchise.
"I can't even remember the last time we won here," Spoelstra said. "All that really matters is modern history."
The Heat managed to create some of that Thursday, even with Faried closing with 20 rebounds and Miller outscoring James 13-8 in the fourth quarter. Even with Chalmers lost for the night seven minutes in with a triceps injury.
Chalmers was injured when he got tangled with Faried while going for a rebound. He said he might have been able to return if asked and is holding out hope of playing Saturday against the Phoenix Suns, on the final stop of this six-game trip.
The Heat led by 19 in the third quarter and went into the fourth up 79-66.
But a night after Paul turned the game for the Clippers late in the third, Miller this time began to turn it with consecutive baskets early in the fourth, leading Spoelstra to call timeout less than two minutes into the final period.
The Nuggets' quarter-opening surge later grew to 8-0, with Miller later converting a 3-pointer that drew the Nuggets within 81-77.
Later, Miller drove, scored and completed the 3-point play to draw the Nuggets within 85-84.
It went back and forth from there, until Cole stepped up with his shot.
"There was no hesitation," he said. "I was open. When you're open, you have to take the shot."
But what it really came down to was James standing as a Big One among the Big Three, with Chris Bosh limited to 14 points and three rebounds and Wade inactive.
"I just tried to go to another level," he said, something he has done consistently this season.
And with that, the Heat headed out into the chilly, midnight thin air, the magnitude of the accomplishment yet to truly resonate.
"It still hasn't set in for me," Bosh said. "I'm tired."
One person will win a three-year lease on a 2013 Honda Civic Lx Sedan automatic.
Click to see the latest mugshots, plus this week's wanted fugitives.
This feature packed upgrade brings you faster performance, easier navigation, and stunning improvements to photos, video and readability.
Latest Sports Headlines