DENVER -- Travel-weary and down a star player, the Miami Heat didn't appear likely to end their futility in Denver on Thursday.
However, thanks to a great all-around game from LeBron James and some pinpoint shooting from his supporting cast, the Heat built a huge lead and held on to beat the Nuggets 98-93 despite playing without guard Dwyane Wade.
James finished with 27 points and 12 assists, and Shane Battier scored 18 points, all on 3-pointers, to help the Heat win in the Mile High City for the first time since James was a high school junior.
The Heat lost Wednesday night to the Clippers in Los Angeles, while the Nuggets hadn't played since Monday.
"This is a tough building to play in, especially when you get in at 5 in the morning, because the altitude is nothing to play with," James said. "So I just tried to go to another level. I just tried to find a little bit of energy to help our team win the ballgame, and fortunately I was able to do that."
Andre Miller and JaVale McGee came off the bench to pace the Nuggets with 19 and 18 points, respectively. Kenneth Faried finished with 16 points and a career-high 20 rebounds for Denver, which lost to the Heat at home for the first time in more than 10 years.
Wade was inactive due to a strained right foot. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the move was precautionary and that the guard is day-to-day.
Miami point guard Mario Chalmers left the game in the first quarter with a strained right triceps and didn't return.
The Heat came into the game shooting 42 percent from 3-point range, but they improved that average against Denver. Led by Battier and Mike Miller, Miami was 11-for-20 from long range in the first three quarters to lead by as many as 19. The Heat finished 13-for-27 (48.1 percent) from 3-point range.
"Early, we fell asleep on our assignments," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "As the game went on, we did a much better job, but I was really disappointed in the first quarter. I thought we lost the game in the first quarter with both Miller and Battier finding the 3-ball."
Trailing 79-64, the Nuggets used a 17-4 run, sparked by some big buckets from McGee and Miller, to cut the Heat's lead to 83-81 with 7:20 left.
Denver nearly took its first lead when Ty Lawson sank a fast-break layup, but it was waved off when Battier drew a charge with 5:35 left. Battier then hit his sixth 3-pointer of the game to give Miami a 90-84 advantage.
"They know we're going to make a run, but at that time, it was too big of a hole," Miller said. "We had an opportunity down one and with the ball to take the lead and missed a shot. They got off to a good start and pretty much controlled the outcome of the game."
Miller made his second 3-pointer, but James, who had 40 points in the teams' first meeting 12 days earlier, scored on a baseline jumper to make it 92-87.
After Denver trimmed the deficit to one, Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari airballed a 3-pointer.
"That was somewhat out of personality," Karl said. "We don't pull quick 3s."
Norris Cole hit a 3-pointer from the corner with 51.4 seconds left to put the Heat up 95-91.
"It's a good character win," Spoelstra said. "Dwyane being out, Mario having to come out, and then the challenge of playing on the West Coast to here, we didn't want to come out with any excuses."
James scored 12 points and Chris Bosh had 10 to help the Heat take a 54-42 halftime lead.
The Nuggets trailed by as many as eight in the first quarter but cut it to five on Jordan Hamilton's first 3-pointer early in the second. The Heat responded with a 10-3 run to go up 42-30 midway through the period.
Hamilton hit two more 3-pointers and Faried hit two free throws to pull Denver to 45-40 with 3:07 left in the half.
Bosh sank two free throws and a short hook in the lane before Ray Allen drained a 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds left to help extend the lead to nine at the break.
The Heat started strong in the first quarter, led by Battier's trio of 3-pointers that helped them take a 28-20 lead. James, who was booed when he touched the ball for the first time, brought the fans to their feet when he blocked a shot at one end and scored on an alley-oop at the other.
NOTES: The Nuggets entered the game 30th in the league in foul shooting and 25th in 3-point percentage, but they were seventh in scoring. ... The Nuggets entered Thursday having won 10 in a row at home against the Heat. Miami's previous win in Denver was Jan. 29, 2002. ... The Heat did not shoot a foul shot in the first quarter while putting up eight 3-point attempts.