April 15, 2014

While the Miami Heat hope their aging superstar won't miss much time with his latest injury, the Denver Nuggets are soaring in part due to the rise of young Gary Harris.

Dwyane Wade will likely be a game-time decision as the Heat open a critical three-game homestand Monday night against a Nuggets team seeking its longest winning streak in 14 months.

Wade was unable to play in Saturday's 112-104 overtime loss at Toronto because of a bruised right thigh after coach Erik Spoelstra said he was ''laboring'' through a 3-of-15 performance in 31 minutes during Friday's 118-96 win at Chicago.

The 12-time All-Star is officially questionable for this contest, though Miami would certainly rather have him ready for more significant games at the end of the homestand.

The Heat, who have won five of six at home, take on Charlotte on Thursday and Eastern Conference-best Cleveland on Saturday. The Hornets are within a half-game of Miami for fourth place and home-court advantage in the playoffs after seven consecutive victories.

The Heat (38-28) have gone 4-2 without Wade, who has averaged just 14.8 points in his last six games against the Nuggets (28-38). They shot 37.8 percent Saturday after averaging 113 points on 51.2 percent in winning five of their previous six.

Joe Johnson continues to be a bright spot, finishing with a season-high 28 points. The veteran has averaged 15.5 on 56.8 percent in eight games since joining the Heat.

''I think we're an unpredictable team as far as who is going to score the basketball,'' Johnson said. ''We have a lot of guys that are very versatile that can make plays offensively and defensively so I think it takes the pressure off everybody.''

After allowing an average of 96.8 points on 40.8 percent shooting during a five-game winning streak, the Heat have slipped defensively by giving up 107.3 per game and a 47.8 field-goal percentage in dropping two of three on their road swing.

That could be a concern facing a Denver team averaging 115.8 points during a 5-1 stretch. Harris, D.J. Augustin, Darrell Arthur and Jusuf Nurkic each scored 17 Saturday when the Nuggets shot 52.5 percent in their fourth straight win, 116-100 over visiting Washington.

Harris has averaged 16.3 points and connected on 51.3 percent, while also playing outstanding defense over his last nine. The second-year guard had scored 11 per game in his prior 51.

Denver has tightened things up in its last three games, allowing an average of 97.3 points. The club had been giving up 104.5 per game heading into those contests.

''We got stops, took advantage of our stops and ran,'' Arthur said Saturday. ''We came in and played team basketball, covered for each other, turned those guys over and took advantage.''

The Nuggets, five games back of eighth-place Dallas, hope to open a five-game trip by winning five straight for the first time since Jan. 3-14, 2015. However, they've dropped the last two meetings with Miami as well as four of their past five trips to AmericanAirlines Arena.

Without Wade in the first meeting, Hassan Whiteside led the Heat with 19 points, 17 rebounds and 11 blocks in a 98-95 road win Jan. 15. The center is also playing well heading into this contest, averaging 17.6 points, 14.8 rebounds and 3.9 blocks in his last 12 games.

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