Miami Heat vs. Denver Nuggets Game Recap: Rookie Showcase

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(Miami, FL) – With seven different players scoring in double figures, the Miami Heat returned to the win column with a 124-119 victory over the Denver Nuggets at American Airlines Arena on Monday night.

The Heat trailed 93-90 in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, but Hassan Whiteside’s jumper just past the 10-minute mark gave them the lead for good at 96-95. They would lead by as many as eight late in the game before clinching the win with four free throws in the final 23 seconds.

The final score was indicative of the teams’ shooting on the night, with both finishing over 50 percent and Miami falling just under 60 percent on the evening. The Heat also maintained strong ball movement throughout the game with 24 assists.

Rookie Justise Winslow led Miami with 20 points off the bench, while Dwyane Wade returned to the lineup after sitting out Saturday night’s lost at Toronto with a bruised thigh. He scored 19 points and dished out five assists on the evening.

What may have been the story of the night, however, was the play of rookies Winslow and Josh Richardson. Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra spoke about the performance of his young rooks after the game.

“They were playing so well at the end, I just couldn’t take them off the floor,” Spoelstra said. “Our program isn’t for everybody. It’s just not. Some players get chewed up by it.”

Joe Johnson and Whiteside each scored 18 apiece, with Johnson also adding five assists, and Whiteside grabbing 10 rebounds for a double-double.

Whiteside’s performance again had its ups and downs, which Spoelstra noted:

“His last six minutes were his best after his first six were his worst.”

The trio of Luol Deng, Richardson and Goran Dragic rounded out the double-figure group. Deng and Richardson closed the night out with 17 apiece, while Dragic tallied 11 and also contributed eight assists.

“I wouldn’t really call Justise and me rookies anymore,” Richardson said after the win. “We’re just basketball players.”

At the outset, Miami held a 36-33 advantage when the first quarter ended, though things cooled down somewhat in the second quarter. However, the Heat weren’t able to build on their lead of seven at 57-50 and by the time intermission arrived, Miami only led 64-62.

The third quarter saw both teams trade slim leads over the first eight minutes, followed by each team going on mini-runs over the remainder of the period. With the score tied at 80, Denver outscored the Heat 9-2, but in the final 1:17, it was the Heat who managed an 8-2 surge to make it 91-90 in favor of the Nuggets with one quarter left.

While happy with the win, Johnson was concerned about the problems on the defensive side of the ball:

“Defensively we’re just having so many breakdowns, and it’s hurting us.”

The Heat stay at home for their next matchup on Thursday against the Charlotte Hornets. That contest will tip off just after 7:30 p.m. ET.
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Brad Sullivan is a freelance writer for, having been an avid fan of NBA basketball for more than four decades. During that time, he's watched the Heat evolve from gestation period to expansion team all the way to three-time NBA champions. He'll follow their quest toward again reaching those lofty heights, and do so by offering some perspective along the way.