Updated: November 16, 2012, 9:35 AM ET

1. Heat Gain Altitude With Win Over Nuggets

By Brian Windhorst

DENVER -- This, ladies and gentlemen, is why it can be dangerous to wager on an NBA game.

When the schedule came out last summer, the Miami Heat took a look at Thursday night's game and quietly sighed, probably mentally chalking up a loss. It was to be the fourth game in five nights, the most demanding test any team will face during the season, all of them on the road. The Denver Nuggets, meanwhile, would have two nights off to lay in wait.

Meanwhile, Miami hadn't won at the Pepsi Center since drafting Dwyane Wade. Not when they had Shaquille O'Neal. Not when LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined up. In fact, it had rarely been close. Last season the Heat lost by 13 points. Two years ago they lost by 28.

LeBron James
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesMiami won in Denver for the first time since 2002.

In addition, Wade was shut down before the game Thursday because of a lingering foot injury. The Heat then lost a second starter in the first quarter when Mario Chalmers went down with a triceps injury.

Nuggets coach George Karl said before the game that he was excited about a rematch with the Heat because he'd made some defensive adjustments he thought would help limit Bosh, who scored 40 points in the latest meeting, on Nov. 3. As it was, it took a four-point play from Ray Allen in the closing seconds for the Heat to beat the Nuggets in that game on their home floor when they were fully healthy.

Denver came in leading the league in paint scoring. The Heat came in without any practice time to deal with their recently porous interior defense, which had been getting torched during their six-game road trip.

About the only odds the Heat looked like they could beat was getting to their hotel before 5 a.m. after flying in from Los Angeles following a loss to the Clippers. Which they did, barely.

As for the game itself, the Nuggets finished with 26 more points in the paint and 19 more rebounds, numbers that would suggest an unsustainable hope for the Heat. Kenneth Faried had a career-high 20 rebounds, JaVale McGee had a season-high 18 points and Andre Miller had a season-high 19 points.

So naturally after all that build up, the Heat ended up with a surprising 98-93 victory over the Nuggets. Is it fair to refer to the defending champs' winning any game as a surprise? Well, had you watched LeBron James labor over the game's last five minutes as he approached his 160th minute since Sunday night and the Heat rely on a 3-pointer from 26 percent career shooter Norris Cole as the clincher, you'd have be surprised, too.

"All we heard is we didn't have a shot and let's go on to [next stop] Phoenix and just let the young guys play," said Shane Battier, who made six 3-pointers and took a key charge late in the fourth quarter. "It's not that we weren't expecting to win, but we played free and loose."

James finished with 27 points, 7 rebounds, 12 assists and 3 blocks. He had eight points in the fourth quarter, making a few jumpers on which he barely got off the court.

"I had to try to find a way," James said. "This is a tough building to play in when you get in at 5 in the morning. This altitude is nothing to play with; I was just trying to find a little bit of energy to make a few plays."

The Nuggets, who are now a surprising 4-5 after a road-heavy start to their schedule, were not able to effectively use their penetration as was expected. They did pile up 50 points in the paint, their stronghold, but point guard Ty Lawson struggled to create clean looks and was scoreless on 0-of-7 shooting. Andre Iguodala had a game largely void of impact.

Danilo Gallinari had two airballed 3-pointers in the second half, including one with 1:05 left that would give Denver the lead. He also failed to chase down a key loose ball a few moments later. It gave the Heat the gaps they needed to pull off the virtual upset.

"I could tell from the walk-through today that it wasn't just going to be showing up and laying down, it was to overcome the odds," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Everyone was so well aware of what our record was over the last few years here."

Dimes past: Nov. 1 | 2-3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9-10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14

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