Mi­ami’s White­side mag­ni­fies Den­ver’s weak side: de­fense

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Christo­pher Dempsey

With 5:28 left in the fourth quar­ter and just four points in the pe­riod to show for their trou­bles, the Nuggets had a de­ci­sion to make Wed­nes­day night: Turn up the de­fen­sive heat and get back into the game against a Heat team that strug­gles to per­form un­der pres­sure, or stay on a sim­i­lar course and be beaten at home.

The Nuggets couldn’t get off the path.

Mi­ami’s Has­san White­side was solid through­out and Wayne Elling­ton pro­vided the knock­out punch with four 3-point­ers in the fourth as the Heat ran to a 106-98 vic­tory over the Nuggets at the Pepsi Cen­ter.

“They came in here ready to play, and we weren’t,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “I thought White­side dom­i­nated us early, set the tone in the first quar­ter. Give him credit.”

For the Nuggets, the se­cond and fourth quar­ters did them in.

This is how their score by quar­ters looked: 30 in the first, 17 in the

se­cond, 33 in the third and 18 in the fourth. And the fourth quar­ter was where the Nuggets needed to main­tain mo­men­tum. But they couldn’t.

They ended the third on a 14-4 run to take an 80-75 lead. But Mi­ami hit back with a 17-4 run to start the fourth. Not only had the Nuggets al­lowed the Heat to can­cel out their run at the end of the third, Mi­ami took a lead that it would not re­lin­quish.

Elling­ton helped ce­ment the win, catch­ing fire from be­hind the arc. He en­tered the fourth with 10 points but quickly knocked down his first three 3-point­ers to get the Heat back on track. He added an­other for good mea­sure, and it was enough to see Mi­ami through. The Nuggets couldn’t make enough shots and couldn’t come up with the de­fense nec­es­sary to win.

“We al­low them to score 31 points on 61 per­cent from the field, but more im­por­tant, we had six turnovers for 13 points in that fourth quar­ter,” Malone said.

Por­ous de­fense was an is­sue all night. Heat guard Go­ran Dragic lived in the Nuggets’ paint. Many oth­ers drove right into the lane when they wanted. And that all com­pounded White­side’s big night.

The 7-foot cen­ter blud­geoned the Nuggets for 25 points, 16 re­bounds and four blocked shots. He al­tered a num­ber of other shots and was a big part of the Nuggets shoot­ing just 41.8 per­cent from the field.

“We took a big step back­ward tonight, which is dis­ap­point­ing. And we’ll have to get to work on (Thurs­day),” Malone said.

The Nuggets did put five play­ers in dou­ble fig­ures — four with 17 points apiece. But none could carry the team. The Nuggets com­mit­ted 19 turnovers, which the Heat — a good de­fen­sive team – turned into 28 points.

“Even though we had 28 as­sists, I thought we were easy to guard,” Malone said. “I don’t think the ball moved, I don’t think bod­ies moved. We stood around and watched each other. That’s not how we need to play.

“And I have to do a bet­ter job. We’re all in this to­gether, play­ers and coaches. I have to con­tinue to do a bet­ter job with our team.”

Mi­ami cen­ter Has­san White­side, cen­ter, smiles after hit­ting a bas­ket against Den­ver on Wed­nes­day. David Zalubowski, The Den­ver Post

Mi­ami Heat guard Rod­ney McGruder at­tempts to block the shot of Nuggets guard Em­manuel Mu­diay on Wed­nes­day night at the Pepsi Cen­ter. Matthew Stock­man, Getty Im­ages

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