DENVER — LeBron James had 27 points and 12 assists, and the short-handed Miami Heat ended a decade-long drought in Denver with a 98-93 win over the Nuggets on Thursday night.
Shane Battier added 18 points — all on 3-pointers — in the Heat’s first win at Denver since Jan. 29, 2002, a streak of 10 straight losses. Every other NBA team has won at the Pepsi Center during that span.
The Heat nearly blew a 19-point second-half lead but held on despite being without Dwyane Wade (foot) and Mario Chalmers, who went to the bench after just 7½ minutes with a strained right triceps.
Andre Miller had 19 points and Kenneth Faried led the Nuggets with 16 points and a career-high 20 rebounds. Ty Lawson, who is averaging 13.5 points, didn’t score.
Lawson would have given Denver its first lead of the night with 5:35 remaining, but his basket was waived off when he was whistled for an offensive foul for running over Battier.
Coming off a loss to the Clippers 24 hours earlier, the Heat looked primed for a letdown at altitude but instead never trailed in beating Denver for the second time in two weeks.
Ray Allen, who had the go-ahead four-point play with 6.7 seconds left in a 119-116 win over Denver in Miami on Nov. 3, sank a 3-pointer just before halftime that gave the Heat a 54-42 lead at the break after committing just two turnovers.
The Heat went up 70-51 on back-to-back 3s by Mike Miller and Battier and still led 79-66 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Nuggets cut the Heat’s lead to one point on a couple of occasions — but kept blowing chances to go ahead.
JaVale McGee had 18 points, including a hook shot after getting the inbounds with just 0.4 seconds left on the shot clock that made it 79-74, and the Nuggets chipped away until Andre Miller’s three-point play pulled Denver to 85-84.
That’s when Lawson had a breakaway and as the crowd cheered what it thought was Denver’s first lead of the night, his foul negated the bucket and James scored at the other end.
After missing two free throws, Faried made two, pulling Denver to 92-89. Andre Iguodala’s two foul shots at 1:37 made it a one-point game again.
Allen missed a 3, but Danilo Gallinari rushed a long-range 3-pointer with about 15 seconds left on the shot clock that missed the basket by several feet.
Norris Cole made the Nuggets pay with a 3-pointer at the other end for a 95-91 lead with under a minute left.
Gallinari then mistakenly let the ball go out of bounds at midcourt, giving possession back to Miami, and James sank two free throws with 23 seconds left to ice it.
Wade was held out because of a sprained left foot a night after scoring just six points — well below his 18.4-point average — in Miami’s 107-100 loss to the Clippers.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the move was cautionary, emphasizing, “It’s not anything major. He has a bunch of little, minor, nagging injuries, so we’ll continue to take it day by day.”
Notes: Several Denver Broncos were in attendance. Champ Bailey was sporting a LeBron sweat shirt at team headquarters. “Oh, dang. Don’t call me out like that,” he said. “I’m always rooting for the Nuggets. I like LeBron, don’t get me wrong. He’s a great player. But I’m Nuggets all the way.” Not so Miami native Elvis Dumervil, but even he declined to disparage Denver. “That’s a tough question,” he said when asked if he had split loyalties. How about this: Excited to see LeBron? “Yeah, let’s put it that way,” Dumervil said. ... The Nuggets hit the road again now, travelling to San Antonio, Memphis and Minnesota. ... Faried’s previous best was 17 rebounds, accomplished twice, including Saturday against Golden State.
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