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Smith, Nuggets top Heat without Carmelo

Jan 8, 2009 - 6:15 AM DENVER (Ticker) -- Without Carmelo Anthony, the Denver Nuggets needed both J.R. Smith and Linas Kleiza to trump Dwyane Wade.

Smith and Kleiza combined for 42 points as the Nuggets posted a 108-97 victory over the Miami Heat on Wednesday despite the absence of superstar forward Anthony.

Chauncey Billups scored 21 points for the Nuggets, who needed a team effort to combat the exploits of the Heat's Wade. The league's leading scorer netted 31 points in a losing effort.

"We miss 'Melo and his explosiveness, but (Kleiza) did a great job in the first half," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "I thought the tempo of the game was fast and that benefits LK."

Wade's good friend and Olympic teammate last summer, Anthony broke a bone in his shooting hand during Denver's 135-115 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Monday. He will miss three to four weeks.

"He is always needed," Smith said of Anthony. "We just need to keep moving the ball and continue to have guys step up and play well."

The Nuggets, however, may have used his absence as motivation, taking it to the Heat from the outset en route to an 11-point lead at the half.

Kleiza, who started in Anthony's place, was 4-of-6 from the arc, while Smith provided the energy during crunch time as the duo worked together to fill their star teammate's shoes.

"They have guys that can come out and put 20 on the board, especially the two coming off the bench," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Smith and Kleiza, who normally is a reserve.

Wade was fighting an uphill battle all night for Miami, which cut its deficit to six twice in the final five minutes but could not get over the hump.

Shawn Marion nailed a 3-pointer to cut the Heat's deficit to 99-93 just under the three-minute mark.

After an empty possession by Denver, Smith swung the momentum back to the Nuggets by swooping in for a loose ball at mid-court and gliding in for a wide-open dunk - a sheer hustle play that caught Miami guard Chris Quinn by surprise and effectively sealed the win.

Marion scored 25 points for the Heat, who played porous defense throughout and even used a zone in the second half.

"Just a horrible defensive effort," Spoelstra said. "All the progress we made in three weeks seemed non-existent."

Miami opened the second half with a 12-3 run in the first five minutes to cut its halftime deficit down to two at 61-59. Wade led the run with all seven of his third-quarter points in that span - many in spectacular fashion, including a wild fadeaway 3-pointer while falling out-of-bounds.

However, the Nuggets outscored the Heat, 19-11, over the last 6:48 of the quarter to maintain their 11-point cushion, 83-72, entering the fourth.

Ever persistent on this night, Miami started the final period with a 10-2 spurt, cutting its deficit to 85-82, but could get no closer leading up to its futile late-game push.

"We still had our chances," Spoelstra said. "We got it to three so many times in the game. We just couldn't get over the hump."

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