Best of 2013-14: Nuggets defeat defending champs in Miami
Denver's win over Heat ranks No. 5 on countdown
Little known fact: The Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat once collided as Midwest Division opponents.
That was in 1988-89 – Miami’s first season as an NBA expansion franchise.
As a perennial playoff team under coach Doug Moe, the Nuggets won five of six games against the Heat that year, including two of three in Miami. Victories in South Beach have been tougher to come by ever since.
During one stretch from 1990 to 2002, the Nuggets lost 11 of 12 games in Miami.
With that historical context in mind, it’s easy to understand why Denver’s 111-107 victory over the two-time defending champion Heat on March 14 ranked No. 5 in our countdown of the best Nuggets games of 2013-14.
Led by LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, the Heat built a 14-point lead early in the second quarter before the Nuggets stormed back behind the strong play of reserves Darrell Arthur, Aaron Brooks, Evan Fournier, J.J. Hickson and Quincy Miller.
The second unit sparked a 27-6 run and accounted for 36 of Denver’s 38 second-quarter points. The Nuggets never relinquished the lead while beating Miami on the road for the first time in five years.
“I told the second unit to have fun and let it fly,” coach Brian Shaw said after the game. “They came in and really settled us down. I rolled with them basically the whole second quarter because they had a nice rhythm going. We just continued to ride that momentum.”
The Nuggets led by as many as 16 points in the fourth quarter before withstanding a late Miami rally. The Heat closed to within three with 17.1 seconds remaining before Randy Foye and Kenneth Faried iced the victory from the free-throw line.
Faried finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds, but he and Foye gave all the credit to Denver’s reserves.
“The bench was MVP tonight,” Foye said. “Those guys came in and just gave us the boost that we needed.”