Can the Miami Heat Keep Winning Against Denver?


The Miami Heat (30-36) are arguably in their best stretch of the season, having won two big games against the Cavaliers and Trail Blazers. Getting motivated to go against a title contender is one thing but can they stay consistent against the struggling Denver Nuggets (26-42)? 

Start Time: 7:30 p.m. EST
Location: Game will be played in Miami at the AmericanAirlines Arena
TV Info: Fox Sports
Radio: 104.3 The Ticket

Want a startling statistic to indicate just how bizarre this season has been for the Miami Heat? With all the ups-and-downs, their longest win streak of the season still stands at three, a mark they achieved at the very start of a season that now seems years ago.

But the Heat have a chance to tie that mark with a win against Denver on Friday night, a possibility that seems more likely because of the resurgence of Dwyane Wade.

Wade has been the unquestioned leader for Miami, posting 32 points in each of their most recent wins. He’s also averaging 30.2 points over his five games and, moreover, he’s doing so at incredibly-efficient rate, hitting 55.2 percent of his shot attempts. The numbers are incredible but they don’t tell the whole story on Wade, who just looks…better. He’s getting the shots that he wants, is playing solid defense and is looking more agile (and healthy) than he has in quite some time. And he’s clearly happy with his role, as he told reporters earlier this week:

"“This is what I love to do. I mean, obviously the last couple years I had to do what I had to do for that team. But now for this team I get to be a little bit back to my usual self, having the ball. I’m not going to do it right every time, but I like my chances most nights.”"

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he’s playing with a well-rounded group that seems ready to join Wade in the playoff push. The combination of Wade and Goran Dragic continues to impress, while Luol Deng had one of his best games of the season, a 24-point outing against Portland where he hit all four of his 3-point attempts. This trio of slashing, efficient wing players keeps defenses on their toes and provide a complementary outside  presence to Hassan Whiteside.

This combination of recent success and a solid cast of characters has Miami fans feeling pretty good right now, a far cry from Nuggets fans that have been tortured by an under-performing team for years. Still, Denver has been playing well of late, having won 6-of-9 since the firing of former Heat player-turned-coach Brian Shaw. In one of the more bizarre stories of the season, the gap between Shaw and his players grew ever-wider, leading to obvious tension in the locker room that bordered on soap opera-like status. Despite Shaw’s pedigree and tutelage under Phil Jackson and Frank Vogel, he couldn’t get his team focused and would lash out, often publicly via the media. 

It was uncomfortable to watch at times but that era is over and, in its stead, is a more fun, carefree version of the team led by interim head coach Melvin Hunt.

Hunt has done what Shaw never could – win consistently – even if he’s not considered the prime candidate to keep the head coaching position. After unloading Arron Afflalo to Portland, the Nuggets have gotten contributions from a wider array of players, particularly Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler. Both players are in Hunt’s small starting lineup; “Gallo” is averaging 16.4 points in his last 10 games and Chandler 14.9 points over that same span. Guard Randy Foye had one of his best games of the season when he dropped 23 points in a loss to Houston on Thursday. But Denver’s bench has also gotten a boost, with big Jusuf Nurkic clogging the lane for opponents and Jameer Nelson, now with his third team this season, being a consistent reserve scorer.

The Nuggets aren’t playing for anything this year, there’s no hope of making the playoffs and with a new group of coaches likely coming in next season, this roster might be overhauled once more. But, temperamental as they’ve been so far, at least they’re playing well now and that makes them dangerous.

Miami can’t afford to let up and must show something they haven’t all season: consistency. With any luck, they might just match that season-long win streak tonight before getting a chance to push it even further on Sunday.

Check back with All U Can Heat for a full recap, post-game grades, analysis and more.

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