Back-to-backs in the NBA are never easy, but the Miami Heat have an especially tricky one Thursday night. The Heat had to play the athletic, very good L.A. Clippers at Staples Center on Wednesday night before visiting Denver on Thursday. The Nuggets always have an advantage at home because of the altitude and even more so in a quick turnaround game.
The good news for Miami is that Thursday’s game is the penultimate one of its six-game road trip, which ties for the team’s longest of the season. The Nuggets, who have been off since Monday, go out on a three-game trip after this one.
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Because of last season’s lockout, the Nuggets and Heat met just once, and it was in Denver. The Nuggets won 117-104 behind 24 points from Ty Lawson. LeBron James led Miami with 35. Dwyane Wade left the game with around seven minutes remaining after spraining his ankle. Denver has won 10 straight at home vs. the Heat.
Heat at Nuggets How the Teams Enter
The Heat bounced back from being dominated in Memphis on Sunday with a 113-110 win in Houston on Monday night. That improved Miami to 2-0 in the second of back-to-backs this season; both followed a loss the night before. LeBron took over against Houston with 32 second-half points. He gave Miami the lead for good with a layup with 19 seconds left. James scored in double figures for the 149th consecutive game, breaking a tie with Wade for the longest streak in franchise history. Houston made a season-high 12 three-pointers but missed its final three attempts from long range, including an air ball by Jeremy Lin that could have given the Rockets the lead with 10 seconds left.
The Nuggets saw their four-game winning streak snapped Monday in Phoenix, 110-100. The Suns had lost six straight in the series. Denver outshot Phoenix 54 percent to 46 percent but committed 15 turnovers to the Suns’ six. New Nugget Andre Iguodala led Denver with 17 points and nine rebounds.
Heat at Nuggets Betting Story Lines
The 110 points allowed Monday were the second-most Denver has given up this season. The Heat put up 119 in a three-point home win over the Nuggets on Nov. 3. That dropped Denver (4-4) to 0-3. New Heat player Ray Allen converted a four-point play with 6.7 seconds left that put Miami ahead for good. Chris Bosh was the star with 40 points. Danilo Gallinari was terrible for Denver, going 3-for-17 from the floor, including 1-for-9 from three-point range.
Denver leads the NBA in rebounding thanks in large part to the “Manimal” Kenneth Faried. He has been the team’s best player so far, averaging 10.8 rebounds (leading the league in offensive boards) to go with 13.9 points on 58.5 percent from the field. He was banged up a bit in Monday’s loss but will absolutely play Thursday.
What Denver isn’t good at is free-throw shooting or from long distance. The Nuggets are last in the NBA by shooting 64 percent from the charity stripe and fourth-worst in three-pointers at 30 percent (even thought Denver is No. 2 in attempts). Faried shoots just 48 percent from the free-throw line and Lawson 54 percent. Gallinari (who averages a whopping seven three-pointers per game), Lawson, Andre Miller and Wilson Chandler all shoot less than 30 percent from long range.
Meanwhile, LeBron is even better this year, which should be frightening to the rest of the NBA. Entering Wednesday’s game, James had a double-double in seven of the Heat’s first eight games and is averaging 23.9 points, 10.0 rebounds and 6.1 assists. He has never averaged more than 7.9 rebounds in a season. In addition, James is 13-for-25 from long range (52 percent). He has never averaged better than 36.2 percent from there. How is he possibly guardable now? Maybe teams need to resort to Hack-a-LeBron. He is hitting a career-low 64.9 percent of his free throws.
One small concern so far is that Miami ranks just 24th in points allowed per game. Blame Allen for part of that. According to ESPN, the Heat have surrendered 109.0 points per 100 possessions when the 37-year-old is on the court. When Allen's on the bench, Miami allows 97.7 points per 100 possessions, which is right near last year’s number. Allen is still a great shooter but he just can’t keep up with opposing guards.
Heat at Nuggets Betting Odds and Key Trends
This game opened as a “pick’em” on BetOnline (Heat were -8.5 in earlier game vs. Denver) with the total at 203.5. The Heat are 4-4 ATS and 4-4 “over/under” this season (all trends entering Wednesday). Denver is 5-3 ATS (2-0 at home) and 4-4 O/U.
The Heat are 4-0 ATS in their past four Thursday games. Denver has covered five of its past six at home. The over is 5-1 in Miami’s past six vs. the Western Conference. The under is 8-2 in Denver’s past 10 on two days of rest. The over is 6-2 in the past eight meetings in Denver. Miami hasn’t covered in the past six trips to the Mile High City.
NBA Picks: Heat at Nuggets Betting Predictions
So let’s see, in Miami’s first two losses, to the Knicks and Grizzlies, the Heat allowed an average of 16.5 made three-pointers. Houston hit 12 on Monday and probably should have won. So can the Nuggets find the range Thursday? The Heat have allowed the third-most three-point attempts per game and third-best shooting percentage. Denver must get more from Gallinari to win as he’s shooting just 31.1 percent from the field overall. The guy is a good scorer and shooter when healthy.
Denver deserved to win that first meeting with Miami. The Nuggets outrebounded the Heat 47-32 and shot 51.6 percent from the field. But Denver was 5-for-21 from long range compared to Miami’s 10-for-25. The Nuggets also were just 13-for-20 from the free-throw line compared to the Heat’s 23 of 27. But free throws and three-pointers tend to go in more often at home. And the Heat will be tired. Take the Nuggets and the over.
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