|Nuggets at Heat after ugly loss|
MIAMI -- The Denver Nuggets are coming off their ugliest loss of the season.
The Miami Heat are just back from a 1-2 West Coast road trip.
On Monday night, these teams will match up as the Heat plays host to the Nuggets at AmericanAirlines Arena.
The Heat (37-33) currently have the eighth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference, just a half-game behind the seventh-place Milwaukee Bucks.
"We're getting better," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told the media after the rough road trip that included an overtime loss to the lowly Sacramento Kings. "We're getting stronger from this. I truly believe we will find the benefits of going through these types of games."
Meanwhile, the Nuggets (38-32) are sitting just outside the Western Conference playoff picture after Saturday night's brutal 101-94 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, who entered that game with the worst record in the NBA.
Memphis snapped a 19-game losing streak with the win over Denver.
"It's a bad loss," Nuggets coach Michael Malone told the media. "It's a tough way to start this road trip.
"Our first group did a terrible job of starting the game with any real sense of urgency. We built ourselves a 21-point hole on the road."
Even so, the Nuggets trailed Memphis by just two points with 2:47 left in Saturday's game. But Denver never scored another point.
Malone said it was an "unacceptable" overall effort for the Nuggets in what was their start of a seven-game trip.
For the Heat on Monday, a lot will depend on whether center Hassan Whiteside (hip injury) and shooting guard Dwyane Wade (hamstring) are able to play.
Whiteside, who has missed four straight games, leads the Heat in rebounds (11.8) and blocks (1.7) while averaging 14.3 points. He gives Miami an inside presence.
Wade, 36, is near the end of a brilliant career and is averaging 13.6 points. But since he joined the Heat on Feb. 9, he has become a big part of their second unit. He had averaged 15.5 shots per game in the two contests prior to getting hurt, and he has since missed the past three games.
On the positive side for Miami is that the Heat are 20-13 at home and have won four straight games at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Overall, however, the Heat have not played well for the past several weeks. The Heat were just 3-7 in a disappointing February and are 5-4 so far in March.
Denver won the only previous meeting with the teams, prevailing at home 95-94 on Nov. 3 when Paul Millsap was fouled and made three free throws for the game's final points.
But the Nuggets are dealing with a significant injury. Gary Harris, Denver's leading scorer, missed the Memphis game due to a knee injury. He is averaging 17.7 points and is shooting well at every level -- 82.7 percent on free throws, 55.3 percent on 2-pointers and 39.9 percent on 3-pointers.
Harris is not expected to Miami.
"He's not even walking normally yet," Malone said. "I think Gary will be out three or four games."