Each game is made up of elements which help formulate the outcome. Monday through Friday, we'll bring you the elements from the night before's games in our own specialized version of the game recaps. It's not everything that happened, but it's an insight into what lead to the results you'll see in the box scores. This is the Game Changer.
THE BIG ONE: MIAMI HEAT LOSE AGAINLeBron James was out with a sprained ankle. It was the second night of a back-to-back. The team plane landed in the wee hours of the morning. The game was played at high altitude.
There are a litany of excuses, and reasons, that the Miami Heat got clobbered by the Denver Nuggets on Thursday night on national television, 130-102, but, in the aftermath, James' absence will serve as the lightning rod.
Without their leading scorer and best play-maker, the Heat looked listless, settled for bad shots, couldn't really guard anybody, played deeper into their bench than they usually do, and generally didn't get up for the moment. What's more, the other two parts of the Big 3, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, were -25 and -26 respectively, combining for just 40 points when 75 or so was needed.
James' absence and the promise of his return makes this loss a lot easier to take for the Heat and their fans, although it's got to be a touch disconcerting for James, who came to Miami with the idea he was seeking out teammates who could meaningfully help him shoulder the load. But it's not panic time, by any means, as James surely understands that a Big 3 makes for a contender and any Big 2, no matter how big, is only good enough to be a pretender in the top-heavy NBA.
As for Heat coach Eric Spoelstra? Well, he doesn't appear to be taking the loss very well.
GO-GO-GADGET LINES OF THE NIGHT:
Russell Westbrook: 32 points, 10 rebounds, 13 assists, one steal and two blocks in 42 minutes in an Oklahoma City Thunder home win over the Orlando Magic.
Kevin Love: 35 points, 11 rebounds, and four assists in 41 minutes in a Minnesota Timberwolves home win over the Washington Wizards.
Dwight Howard: 39 points, 18 rebounds, two blocks in 43 minutes in an Orlando Magic road loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
- The latest on the Carmelo Anthony trade talks.
- The Miami Heat can no longer reach 72-10 this year.
- This week's All-Star returns.
WHIMSY:This is a pretty breathtaking ensemble from LeBron James: winter coat, dress pants, dress shoe and Nike flip flop, necessitated by his sprained ankle, of course. It's likely this is the first time in the history of the universe that someone has ever worn this outfit.
I'm not sure if Minnesota Timberwolves center Darko Milicic is a future All-Star, but he did manage to tip a jump ball into the wrong hoop, scoring two points for the opposition. Insane and so unlucky. Unfortunately, in typical Darko fashion, this weird news becomes the headline on a night when he put up 14 points and 11 rebounds.