MIAMI (CBSSports/AP) – LeBron James has been spectacular both times he has faced the Denver Nuggets since joining the Miami Heat.
Perhaps the key to which team will win Saturday night will be how well Dwyane Wade fares.
The Heat return home after a difficult trip that resulted in a loss as they try to drop the new-look Nuggets to 0-3.
Miami (1-1) and Denver have met three times since James joined the Heat, with the Nuggets winning twice. James was out with a sprained left ankle for one of the losses, averaging 34.0 points on 62.2 percent shooting in the other two games.
Wade has played in all three of those games. He scored 32 points in the Heat’s 103-98 victory March 19, 2011, while averaging 14.0 points on 39.4 percent shooting in the defeats.
Miami fell 104-84 at New York on Friday. The Heat arrived in New York after a three-hour bus ride from nearby Newark, N.J. in the wake of the devastation in the area due to Superstorm Sandy.
Wade wasn’t sure the game would be played under the circumstances and said at Friday’s shootaround that it shouldn’t. He donated his game check, around $210,000 before taxes, to relief efforts.
The Heat’s effort, meanwhile, was flat throughout as they trailed the entire game and fell into a 16-point hole after one quarter. James led Miami with 23 points.
“They played a very good basketball game,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Got us on our heels pretty much the whole game and we weren’t able to recover from there. We have to move on. We’re clearly much better than this.”
Miami finished with 21 turnovers after a clean performance with eight in Tuesday’s 120-107 opening win over Boston.
The Nuggets are trying to avoid their first 0-3 start in six years in the finale of this road trip. Denver led the league in scoring with 104.1 points per game in 2011-12, but George Karl’s team has averaged 82.0 on 37.8 shooting so far.
The Nuggets will look to get off to a better start after scoring 38 first-half points in Tuesday’s 84-75 loss to Philadelphia and 37 to trail by 21 at the break in Friday’s 102-89 defeat to Orlando.
“The first half we weren’t very good at either end of the court,” said Karl about Friday. “In Philly, we didn’t make shots, but we played great defense and stayed in the game because of that.”
Danilo Gallinari led Denver with 23 points and eight rebounds in his season debut after missing the opener with a sprained left ankle.
“This is just the beginning and we have some new guys on the team and the guys who were injured last year are now trying to get back in shape,” Gallinari said. “We didn’t do a good job, but I am sure tomorrow we are going to do better.”
Newcomer Andre Iguodala has totaled 20 points on 34.8 percent shooting for Denver after being acquired from Philadelphia. Iguodala has lost his last 11 regular-season games against the Heat.
James will receive another honor Saturday when a banner is raised to commemorate his gold medal in the London Olympics.
The Nuggets have won 11 of the last 13 meetings.
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