Denver (41-28) at Miami (47-22)

By ALAN FERGUSON, STATS Writer Saturday, Mar 19, 2011 Tipoff: 7:30 pm EDT Sat Mar 19, 2011

The Miami Heat’s vaunted trio of All-Stars hasn’t kept the team from experiencing plenty of ups and downs this season. The Denver Nuggets, meanwhile, have been mostly successful since trading away a superstar.

The Nuggets, however, will be attempting to bounce back from a disheartening loss Saturday night when they visit the Heat, winners in four of five.

Miami has proved successful lately but it wasn’t that long ago that the Heat (47-22) were enduring a season-high five consecutive losses. They’ve rebounded nicely from that skid and recorded their past three wins by an average of 28 points.

After falling 96-85 to visiting Oklahoma City on Wednesday, Miami got 43 points from LeBron James(notes) - in just three quarters - as it bounced back with a 106-85 rout of Atlanta on Friday. The All-Star forward scored 23 in his final period to help his team build on a 13-point halftime lead.

“My jump shot felt great,” James told the league’s website after shooting 16 of 21. “When my jump shot is on, there’s really nothing you can do about it defensively.”

The win helped the Heat move within 2 1/2 games of Chicago for the Eastern Conference lead. They’ll try to follow with only their fourth victory in 18 games against Denver (41-28).

The Nuggets enter this matchup 9-3 since trading Carmelo Anthony(notes) to New York on Feb. 22 and fifth in the West. However, they suffered an 85-82 road loss to Orlando on Friday as the Magic’s Jameer Nelson(notes) hit a 3-pointer as time expired.

The defeat ruined Denver’s drive for a fifth consecutive win and a season-high fourth in a row on the road.

“Tough loss,” coach George Karl said. “The guts of our team I thought was first class. Orlando makes you fight. I thought we did fight. Just came up a little short.”

Karl’s team also recorded its season low for points and worst shooting percentage (35.9 percent) in that game. The Nuggets, however, connected at a 53.3-percent clip in a 130-102 home win over Miami on Jan. 13.

Denver also benefited from the absence of James, who missed that game with a sprained left ankle.

Chris Bosh(notes) had a team-best 24 points for the Heat but Dwyane Wade(notes) was limited to 16 on 7-of-19 shooting. Anthony helped Denver claim its 10th win in 11 games against Miami with 21 points, but it was J.R. Smith(notes) who led the way with 28 off the bench.

“Everybody is going to look at it and say, ‘LeBron didn’t play,’” Smith said after that win. “As a competitor, you always want to play against the best players available.”

Smith and the Nuggets should get that chance Saturday, but will face a player who has averaged 37.0 points over his past three matchups with Denver. James recorded a triple-double - 43 points, 13 rebounds and 15 assists - during an overtime loss with Cleveland last season.

If there’s a slight advantage for the Nuggets, it might be that James is scoring slightly better on the road (27.7 ppg) than at home (25.0).

Denver is seeking its fifth win in six games in Miami, but fell 96-88 there on Nov. 6, 2009. Wade had 22 to lead five Heat players in double figures.

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