Nuggets break six-game losing streak in Denver

DENVER (AP) -- Denver Nuggets coach Jeff Bzdelik said all week
that he had no extra incentive to beat his former mentor.

Yeah, right.

Juwan Howard had 28 points and 12 rebounds, and Rodney White
added 15 points as the Denver Nuggets beat the Miami Heat 86-76
Wednesday night to help Bzdelik beat former boss Pat Riley.

"Coach wouldn't admit it to us, but we could tell he really
wanted this win," said Denver's Ryan Bowen, who had a season-high
12 points. "He didn't approach it any differently, but he was a
little more intense. You could really tell he wanted this one."

Bzdelik was an assistant under Riley in New York and Miami
before becoming Denver's coach this season. It seemed obvious from
the start that beating Riley meant a little more than he let on.

He gave a little pump of the fist when Howard hit a baseline
jumper early in the first quarter, then stomped his foot and yelled
when the Nuggets failed to rotate on defense.

After Nene Hilario missed an open layup late in the first
quarter, Bzdelik turned and yelled at the players on the bench:
"You've got to start making shots."

Bzdelik kept it going in the second half, shaking the scorer's
table with a hard kick after a turnover early in the third, then
waving his hand in disgust at Junior Harrington after he threw the
ball away.

He ended the night with a hard fist pump after Howard scored on
a three-point play to put the Nuggets up 75-63 with 4{ minutes

Despite his actions, Bzdelik still maintained that beating Riley
was nothing special.

"I'm going to be conservative on that," said Bzdelik, who
exchanged waves with Riley as they left the floor. "It's always
special against a Pat Riley team because I know that they really
prepared for us. We met that challenge."

Perhaps more important than Bzdelik's personal satisfaction was
that the Nuggets were able to end several losing streaks.

The win was just the third in 20 games for the Nuggets and the
first in seven games at home. Denver also beat Miami for the first
time since March 3, 1995, a span of 15 games, and won on a
Wednesday for the first time in 20 games.

"We are starting to come together a little bit," Bzdelik said.
"We are 2-2 in the new year, and we are going to keep working and
getting better."

Miami was without leading scorer Eddie Jones (ankle) for the
third straight game, and it showed.

The Heat were 0-for-7 from 3-point range, including wide-open
airballs by Caron Butler and Eddie House, and are just 1-of-20 the
past two games.

Miami cut Denver's lead to 65-63 early in the fourth quarter,
but went six minutes without a field goal as Denver pulled away.

Butler had 20 points and seven steals and Malik Allen added 15
points, but it wasn't enough to keep Miami from losing its fourth

"There is an old rule that when you start digging a hole for
yourself, you have to shovel the dirt out, not back on top of
you," Riley said. "It seems like we are shoveling the dirt back
on top of us."

Injuries to Chris Whitney and John Crotty left the Nuggets so
thin at point guard that Bzdelik said he might have to pull someone
out of the crowd in an emergency.

"I'll be searching during the national anthem," he said before
the game.

Denver's depth problems only got worse when forward Donnell
Harvey went out with a sprained left ankle 2½ minutes into the

It didn't seem to affect the Nuggets' shooting.

Denver entered as the league's worst-shooting team, but made
seven of its first 11 attempts and shot 50 percent overall.

"We have to do a better job on the defensive end,"
Heat guard
Anthony Carter said. ``We had to get stops and push the ball, but
it wasn't working."

Game notes
Nuggets C Marcus Camby started practicing with the team this
week, but hasn't set a return date. Camby, who came to Denver in
trade with New York for Antonio McDyess, had hip surgery on Oct. 10
and has yet to play for the Nuggets. ... The player introductions
were done in Spanish as part of Hispanic Heritage Night. ... Miami
F LaPhonso Ellis, who started his career in Denver, received a warm
ovation when he entered the game late in the second quarter. One
fan even yelled out ``I love you, man''.

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