Denver Nuggets Blow Lead, Fall to Heat 98-95

Jan 15, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Jameer Nelson (1) guards Miami Heat forward Luol Deng (9) in the first quarter at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 15, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Jameer Nelson (1) guards Miami Heat forward Luol Deng (9) in the first quarter at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

The Denver Nuggets failed to hold onto a sizable lead at home, allowing the Miami Heat to rally and secure a victory at the Pepsi Center by a final score of 98-95.

The Denver Nuggets controlled the early portion of the game, running out to an 11-point lead after the first quarter of play. The Nuggets got out to a fast start in the 2nd with two quick buckets courtesy of a Will Barton 3-pointer and a Nikola Jokic layup to give the Nuggets a 36-20 lead. Denver would maintain this lead throughout the second quarter, leading by 16-points at 46-42 going into halftime. The Nuggets obviously were riding high after a huge victory over Golden State on Wednesday.

Third quarter saw a drastic swing in momentum from the Denver Nuggets to the Miami Heat. The Heat came out of the locker room ready to play in the third, cutting into the Nuggets lead by going on a 17-8 run to finish out the quarter. A Justise Winslow three-point basket with 38 seconds left in the period and a Hassan Whiteside layup with 6 seconds to go truncated the Denver Nuggets lead to two points to end the quarter, with the score at 78-76.

The Denver Nuggets and the Miami Heat traded baskets in the first two minutes of the final quarter, with scores from Emmanuel Mudiay and Will Barton keeping the home team afloat. A Justise Winslow layup with 9:51 left in the fourth evened the score at 82-82. Forty seconds later, a Winslow three pointer would give the Heat their first lead of the second half at 85-82. On Miami’s next offensive possession, they would increase the lead to 87-82 by way of a Luol Deng basket.

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After a Hassan Whiteside free-throw make, the Denver Nuggets cut the lead to 1-point after a Darrell Arthur jumper, making the score 88-87. A Chris Bosh three-pointer with 6:33 left gave the Heat a 4-point lead — but not for long. Jameer Nelson sank a long jumper, and two Kenneth Faried free-throws tied the game once again at 91-91.

Miami jumped out to a 4-point lead again at 95-91, but the Denver Nuggets tied the game up again with 1:46 left off of a Darrell Arthur jumper. Denver would not score again.  The Heat retook the lead at 97-95 from a Chris Bosh jump shot, securing the win for the visitors from South Florida.

Darrell Arthur led the Denver Nuggets in scoring on Friday night with 18 points, while also adding 8 rebounds in 2 steals. In 26 minutes off the bench, Emmanuel Mudiay scored 16 points and dished out 4 assists. Kenneth Faried added 14 points and 5 boards, while Danilo Gallinari and Gary Harris each had 11 points. 

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The Denver Nuggets shot only 41 percent on Friday night, while the Heat shot nearly 50 percent at 49.8. Miami also out-rebounded the Nuggets 42-37 and recorded an astounding 13 blocks, courtesy of Hassan Whiteside. Hassan Whiteside was an absolute beast for the Heat on Friday, recording a triple-double, scoring 19 points while also securing 17 rebounds, and blocking –gulp– 11 shots. Yes, you read that correctly — 11 shots.

Hassan Whiteside’s presence in the frontcourt turned the Denver Nuggets into a jump shooting team, making the offense inefficient in the second half. I don’t recall ever seeing a game where there were so many blocked shots and one player was so dominant on defense. Chris Bosh added 24 points for the Heat.

Friday’s loss is certainly disappointing for the Denver Nuggets, as they held a 16-point lead and let it slip away. Losing leads is now a common theme during this season, and with the Nuggets still in contention for a playoff spot (as hard as it is to believe), they must continue to figure out a way to maintain leads and to win winnable games.

Next: Denver Nuggets Upend Golden State, 112-110

The Denver Nuggets next play on Sunday as they host the Indiana Pacers.