The Denver Nuggets hope to avoid matching a season-high four-game losing streak and to strengthen their hold on second place in the Western Conference when they host the road-weary Miami Heat on Monday. The Nuggets allowed an average of 132 points in two straight losses before giving Philadelphia all it could handle in a 117-110 setback Friday, and starts a stretch in which they play six of seven at home where they are an NBA-best 23-4.
Denver coach Michael Malone told reporters his players could hold their heads high after Friday's effort, but guard Will Barton said it is time to get back to business as the Nuggets' lead over Oklahoma City for second in the West has shrunk to one game. "I don't want to just hold on for dear life," Malone told reporters. "I want to stay aggressive. I want us to continue to win games and put distance on other teams that are behind us." Miami rallied from nine down in the fourth quarter to take a three-point lead with less than a minute to go Sunday before surrendering the final five in a 120-118 setback at Western-leader Golden State. Josh Richardson poured in 37 points, but the Heat lost for the fifth time in six games to drop into a tie with Detroit for eighth place in the Eastern Conference, and will play their third game in four days on the road.
TV: 9 p.m. ET, FS Sun (Miami), Altitude (Denver) LINE: Nuggets -9.5
ABOUT THE HEAT (25-29): Richardson is averaging 25.3 points over the last three contests and backcourt mate Dion Waiters stepped up to score a season-high 24 on Sunday, draining six 3-pointers in 13 attempts. Center Hassan Whiteside recorded his fifth straight double-double Sunday and is averaging 17.8 points along with 14.2 rebounds during that stretch while veteran Dwyane Wade scored 10 and averaged 17 over his past four contests. Small forward Justise Winslow had 22 points on 8-of-16 shooting against Golden State after connecting on 8-of-31 from the field his previous three games.
ABOUT THE NUGGETS (37-18): Center Nikola Jokic continues to put up big numbers, recording triple-doubles in five of the last eight games and averaging 26 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in the past two. Jamal Murray averaged 21 points and 8.5 assists in two contests since returning from a six-game absence because of an ankle injury while fellow guard Malik Beasley is averaging 20.7 points over his past six outings. Guard Gary Harris (groin) - third on the team in scoring (14.8) - is expected to miss his sixth straight game and forward Paul Millsap (12.0 points) could sit out a fourth straight with an ankle injury.
1. Miami C Bam Adebayo is 17-of-26 from the field the last six games and reached double figures in rebounds for the first time in 13 games on Sunday (11).
2. Denver F Trey Lyles is averaging 16.8 points - 7.3 more than his season mark - on 26-of-46 shooting from the field the last four games.
3. Jokic had 29 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists as the Nuggets won 103-99 at Miami on Jan. 8 for their third victory in the last four of the series.
PREDICTION: Nuggets 116, Heat 104 Bet Now
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