While their offense has been up to the task, the Miami Heat’s defense hasn’t been close to championship form.
The Denver Nuggets have similar concerns defensively with the NBA’s highest-scoring team coming to town Thursday night.
After finishing fourth in the league in scoring defense at 92.5 points per game during their 2011-12 championship season, Miami (6-3) ranks near the bottom at 101.0 points per game this season.
The Heat allowed just 16 of 66 opponents to reach 100 points last season, but have let six teams surpass that mark in 2012-13.
Miami fell to 2-2 on its six-game road trip following a 107-100 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday. The Heat, who have lost 10 straight at Denver, now must deal with a Nuggets team which ranks fifth in the Western Conference with 99.1 points per game.
“We have some good moments, but we have to put a full game together on the road,” guard Dwyane Wade said. ” The important thing right now is to figure out how we can get better.”
The Heat have compensated for some of their defensive deficiencies by leading the NBA in scoring (104.9) and 3-pointers made (80) and are second in field-goal percentage (49.7). With LeBron James (24.6), Chris Bosh (19.8) and Wade (16.9), Miami is one of two teams with three players among the top 30 in scoring.
James scored 30 points and Ray Allen added 14 on four 3-pointers against the Clippers. Wade, though, was held to six while playing with a sprained left foot.
“I had some shots that I normally make that I wasn’t able to hit, but I just tried to help as much as I could and do my job as a leader on the floor,” said Wade, 0-8 lifetime at Denver despite averaging 22.0 points on 50.4 percent shooting.
Denver, 2-0 at home, will attempt to regroup after having its four-game winning streak snapped in a 110-100 loss at Phoenix on Monday night.
Andre Iguodala led five players in double figures with 17 points, JaVale McGee added 16 and Danilo Gallinari had 15 for the Nuggets (4-4), whose 21 turnovers offset their 61.1 percent shooting (11 for 18) from 3-point range and 53.9 percent overall.
Kenneth Faried who added 14 points and 11 rebounds against the Suns for his fourth consecutive double-double, has keyed a Nuggets squad that leads the NBA in rebounding at 51.0 per game and outrebounds opponents by more than eight per contest.
While containing the Heat will be a challenge, the Nuggets had held four consecutive opponents to fewer than 100 points in regulation before Monday. They also held three straight opponents under 40.0 percent before the Suns shot 45.7 percent.
“Defensively, we’ve been a lot better the last four games and we just had some mental lapses and coverages,” Iguodala said.
The Nuggets will have to defend better than earlier this month when Allen had a go-ahead four-point play with 6.7 seconds left to give the Heat a 119-116 win in Miami on Nov. 3. Bosh had 40 points, Allen hit a season-high six 3-pointers and scored 23 while James finished one rebound shy of a triple-double.
Faried had 22 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Nuggets, who lost despite outrebounding the Heat 47-32 and outscoring them 72-40 in the paint.
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