LeBron celebrates 29th birthday with win at Denver
DENVER - Agence France-Presse
AFP PhotoLeBron James celebrated his 29th birthday by scoring 26 points and adding 10 assists Monday to spark the reigning NBA champion Miami Heat over the Denver Nuggets 97-94.
The four-time NBA Most Valuable Player helped the Heat improve to 24-7 while the Nuggets lost their seventh game in a row, the team's longest such skid since April of 2003, and fell to 14-16.
James missed the Heat's win at Portland on Saturday with left ankle and right groin issues and was a game-time decision against Denver, but responded with a solid performance, although netting fewer points than his NBA average of 35 points in games on his birthday.
"Great road win," James said. "We came in with a mindset that we wanted to end 2013 on the right note and we did.
"They made a run and we were able to withstand that and get a great road win." Dwyane Wade scored 12 points for the Heat but departed in the third quarter with back spasms and did not return.
Chris Bosh added 17 points for Miami while Ty Lawson led Denver with 26 points.
Lawson sank a 3-pointer to put Denver ahead 91-90 but James answered with a jumper to put the Heat on top for good.
Ray Allen, who came off the Heat bench to score 13 points, followed with a basket before Wilson Chandler's dunk pulled the Nuggets within 93-92.
Miami's Michael Beasley answered with a 3-pointer with 30 seconds remaining to give the Heat a 96-92 edge.
Randy Foye hit a layup for Denver but Allen added a free throw to put Miami ahead by the final margin.
Lawson missed a 3-pointer but the Nuggets grabbed the ball to set up a last-second shot. The opportunity was squandered when Denver could not inbounds the ball within five seconds, committing a turnover to seal Miami's triumph.
"Heck of a shot by Beas down the stretch," James said. "Everybody made a contribution.
"We believe everyone can make a big contribution. We trust everyone. He made a great shot and we got a big win."