DENVER (AP) — LeBron James returned from a groin injury on his birthday and wasted no time finding his shooting touch.
James scored 26 points and the Miami Heat beat the skidding Denver Nuggets 97-94 Monday night despite losing Dwyane Wade and Norris Cole during the game.
"They left me open at the 3-point line. I took nine 3s and all of them felt good," said James, who converted five. "The groin wasn't an issue at all."
James, who turned 29 on Monday, injured his groin Friday during the Heat's overtime loss at Sacramento. He sat out the following game, a 108-107 win Saturday in Portland, before coming back to help send the Nuggets to their seventh consecutive loss.
He certainly didn't mind going back to work on his birthday.
"No, it's not special," he said. "It's special to go out there with my teammates, to be back in good form and be out there and help them win a ballgame on the road."
Chris Bosh had 17 points and Ray Allen 13, including six in the final 5:08, as Miami won for the ninth time in 11 games.
Ty Lawson scored 26 points to lead the Nuggets, who dropped their second straight to Miami at the Pepsi Center after winning the previous 10. The losing streak is their longest since dropping the final eight games of the 2002-03 season.
"Those guys just made plays at the end and we missed a couple of shots, and that was all she wrote," Nuggets forward Darrell Arthur said. "But I think we're starting to get it. We're trying to turn this thing around. Obviously, we're on a seven-game losing streak but hopefully we can turn this thing around and get back over .500."
While the Heat got James back, they were without Wade and Cole for much of the game.
Cole left midway through the third quarter after taking a fall at the end of a driving layup attempt and hitting his face on the floor.
He had come into the game in place of Wade, who didn't return after halftime because of back spasms.
Cole went up for a shot against Lawson, who was called for a foul, and fell awkwardly face first to the floor. Cole remained down for several minutes while being tended to by trainers before being helped to his feet and assisted off the floor to the locker room for treatment.
"He went back and after a few minutes he was fine," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. "He is just going to have a fat lip tomorrow."