MIAMI (SportsDirect Inc.) — A pair of teams fighting tooth and nail for their playoff lives will meet Sunday in Miami as the Heat look to bounce back against the struggling Denver Nuggets after a bad loss.
Playing against a depleted New York Knicks squad, the Heat were unable to defend home court in a 98-94 loss on Friday, their fourth defeat in seven games following a 23-5 surge.
The mini slump has Miami neck-and-neck with Indiana holding down the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference, with ninth-place Chicago just a half-game back and Charlotte two games shy entering Saturday.
“The 3-ball didn’t go in tonight, we didn’t defend and it didn’t end up being a good formula for us,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters after his team was 8-for-33 from beyond the arc Friday night.
Miami should be able to get more points on the board versus Denver, which has allowed an average of 119.7 during a three-game losing streak, including 122 in each of the first two games of its five-game road trip.
The Nuggets pulled into Saturday two games behind Portland for the final playoff spot in the West.
TV: 6 p.m. ET, NBATV, Altitude2 (Denver), FSN Sun (Miami)
ABOUT THE NUGGETS (35-40): Denver was outscored 52-35 in the paint and allowed Charlotte to make 17 3-pointers in Friday’s 122-114 loss. “Definitely losing like this the last two it makes it tough, but we still have to do our job,” forward Danilo Gallinari – who had 19 points – told the media. “Have fun with each other, have fun playing basketball and keep focusing on our job every game.” Denver’s five starters combined to score 95 points and shoot 56.1 percent while four reserves were 8-for-24 from the field.
ABOUT THE HEAT (37-39): This is not necessarily a must-win game for Miami but it is the team’s best chance for a victory before a brutal finishing stretch. The Heat open a three-game road trip at the pursuing Hornets on Wednesday and then visit Toronto and Washington before returning home to finish the regular season with a game against Cleveland and another matchup with the Wizards. Goran Dragic scored a team-high 22 points against the Knicks and Hassan Whiteside recorded his 52nd double-double, one of which came in a 25-point, 16-rebound performance in a 106-98 win at Denver earlier this season.
1. Heat SG Josh Richardson was 0-for-4 from the field in 29 minutes versus New York.
2. Nuggets PF Nikola Jokic notched his sixth triple-double in Friday’s loss and all six have come since the start of February.
3. Heat SG Dion Waiters has missed seven games in a row with an ankle injury.
(© Copyright 2017 SportsDirect Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)