MIAMI (AP) – Ray Allen had a four-point play with 6.7 seconds left that put Miami ahead for good, Chris Bosh scored 40 points and the Heat held off the Denver Nuggets 119-116 on Saturday night.
LeBron James finished with 20 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds, and Allen scored 23 for the Heat, who escaped when Danilo Gallinari’s 3-point try with 2 seconds left bounced off the rim.
Dwyane Wade added 14 points for Miami (2-1).
Kenneth Faried and Andre Iguodala each scored 22 for Denver, which fell to 0-3. Andre Miller made his first eight shots and finished with 17 for the Nuggets, who also got 16 points from JaVale McGee and outrebounded Miami 47-32.
The 40 points were a Heat-high for Bosh, and they needed every one of them.
They also needed some clutch play from Allen — who came through in a big, big way.
It was a frantic final 3 minutes, and Denver seemed to take control in the final moments. Faried grabbed an offensive rebound and scored with 49 seconds remaining, and after a Denver stop, the Nuggets took the lead when Iguodala connected over Wade from the left wing with 14.1 left on the clock for a 116-115 advantage.
So for the first time this season, the Heat faced a last-second situation. They turned to Allen, who took the pass from James and connected from beyond the arc in the left corner while he was fouled by Corey Brewer.
The free throw swished, the Heat lead was three, and they escaped.
Denver was up six midway through the fourth quarter, but the Heat erased the deficit in a hurry on a pair of 3-pointers by Allen, 41 seconds apart.
There were five lead changes in the span of 90 seconds down the stretch, the first one when Bosh got to the 40-point mark by slipping free and getting a perfect pass from Mario Chalmers for an uncontested score with 3:12 remaining, the last when James scored on a left-handed drive to put Miami up 113-112.
After Allen got on the floor for a loose ball on the next Denver possession, Bosh connected with Wade for a layup that gave the Heat a three-point edge.
Back came Denver.
But the 23rd — and final — lead change of the night was pulled off by Allen and the Heat.
Miami scored 64 points in the first half, the 33rd time in the past 10 seasons that the Heat posted at least that many in the opening two quarters of a game.
In that scenario, they had never trailed at the break. That is, until now.
Denver made 24 of its first 39 shots from the floor — connecting on 11 of its first 15 in the second quarter alone — and dominated the Heat inside throughout the first half. At various times in the early going, Denver held a 40-10 edge in points in the paint, a 12-0 advantage in second-chance points, and Faried and McGee were shooting a combined 13 for 16 in the game’s first 20 minutes.
By halftime, it was 66-64, the Nuggets having scored one more point than what anyone posted in the first half of any game against Miami last season, playoffs included.
The third quarter was a trade-off of big runs, one basically immediately following the other.
Bosh scored 10 points in less than four minutes of the third quarter, fueling a 19-8 Miami burst that gave the Heat what was then their biggest lead of the night — 91-85 when Allen connected on a 3-pointer with 4:11 left in the period.
By then, Bosh was up to 32 points, but was clearly winded and headed to the bench to rest for the fourth. And Denver took advantage.
The Heat missed their last six shots of the third, and Denver closed the quarter on a 12-2 run for a 91-87 edge going into the fourth. Miller scored nine of those 12 points for the Nuggets, the flurry capped by a three-point play after he beat a helping Rashard Lewis on a baseline drive with 0.2 seconds left in the period.
NOTES: Denver didn’t score more than 89 points in either of its first two outings this season — it had 91 by the end of the third quarter on Saturday. … Miami has allowed 175 points in the first halves of its three games. … The Heat shook up the rotation, with Norris Cole essentially being swapped out and replaced by Mike Miller. Heat backup C Joel Anthony also made his first appearance of the season, after battling a hamstring issue since training camp.
(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)