Coming up short in overtime on consecutive nights during a brief West Coast swing has no doubt started to have an effect on the legs of the Miami Heat, if not their psyche.
Capping their five-game trip in the high altitude of Denver against the run-and-gun Nuggets isn't bound to do them any favors, either.
The two highest-scoring teams in the NBA face off Friday night when Miami will look to get back to closing out games - and its season high-tying road trek - on a winning note.
The Heat left Florida flying high, riding the momentum of a 6-1 start to a triple-overtime win at Atlanta to begin the trip. Another victory at New Jersey followed, but a change of time zone soon resulted in a change of fortune, even with the return of Dwyane Wade, who had missed the previous three games with a bruised left foot.
Wade scored a season-high 34 in Tuesday night's 111-106 loss at Golden State, but he missed shots late in regulation and overtime. Similarly, LeBron James came up short on a potential game-tying 3-pointer in the extra session.
On Wednesday night, it was more of the same in a 95-89 defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers. The Heat were held to three points in overtime, with Wade, James and Chris Bosh combining to miss seven shots as the team went 1 for 10. Before that, they failed to score a field goal in the final 7:32 of the fourth, and missed 14 free throws.
Still, Miami (8-3) was able to take the setback in stride.
"We defended and gave ourselves a chance to win, and that's all you can ask for," James said. "So we can be satisfied. I mean, you don't like to lose, but we're not going to hang our heads about this one."
Nor would they have had much time to. After a travel day to Denver, the Heat now play their third game in four nights before heading back home to play eight of their next nine.
"It's the second night that we've lost one going down the stretch in overtime," coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We'll learn from it and we'll move on and make the proper adjustments."
Some of those adjustments will likely center around trying to slow down Denver (7-4), one of the few teams able to go toe-to-toe with Miami's high-scoring offense. The Nuggets are second in the league with an average of 103.6 points, behind only the Heat's 106.4.
That firepower was on full display Wednesday night in a 123-115 home win over the Nets, as Denver finished with an NBA season-high 37 assists.
"You'd rather see your team be unselfish to a fault, to a problem, than the other way," coach George Karl said. "Most NBA teams have the problem the other way."
Making the feat all the more impressive was the fact that the team played without starting point guard Ty Lawson, who was out with a strained right foot.
Lawson hopes to be back Friday - as does Danilo Galinari, who sprained an ankle after scoring a game-high 22 and didn't return.
Exactly one year ago, Denver scored 130 points in beating Miami at the Pepsi Center, although that was with an injured James watching from the sideline and a Carmelo Anthony-led Nuggets squad that has since been rebuilt. Still, Karl's philosophy has endured, and his team's offensive balance and unselfishness may make it even more dangerous.
"The ball's touching a lot of hands out there," Lawson told the team's official website. "It was fun to watch us play like that. Everybody's scoring, everybody's into the game."
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