DENVER —The Nuggets got their groove back. Their swagger, too.
Denver used a 16-0 run in the third quarter and long-range mastery from Nikola Jokic, Malik Beasley and Monte Morris to whup the Miami Heat at their own game — the 3-ball — in a 103-87 victory Monday night at the Pepsi Center, snapping a three-game losing streak and holding on to the No. 2 slot in the Western Conference with one tilt remaining before the all-star break.
"Tonight," stressed center Mason Plumlee, who finished with 11 points, eight rebounds and three blocks, "is who we are."
Miami came in tied for ninth in the league in treys per contest (11.6), while the Nuggets (38-18) ranked 17th in 3-pointers allowed (11.2) after a winless three-game road trip that saw them give up an average of 15 3s to Detroit, Brooklyn and Philadelphia.
A return to the Mile High City — it was the Nuggets' first appearance at the Pepsi Center since Feb. 1 — flipped that script, as the hosts racked up their 24th win in 28 home contests.
The Heat (25-30) was limited to just nine makes from beyond the arc on 33 attempts, a return the Nuggets' defensive mojo of old and a stat that set the tone for the first Nuggets sweep of Miami since the 2008-09 season.
The third quarter proved to be the keeper, on both ends of the floor. Mason Plumlee provided the spark early in the second half by swatting Hassan Whiteside's shot into the Nuggets bench with 8:27 to go in the period. A minute later, Plumlee's two-handed slam off the alley-oop put the Nuggets back up six, at 63-57, and kept the run going in earnest.
"Mason's energy," coach Michael Malone noted, "is contagious."
The Nuggets connected on 4-of-9 from beyond the arc in the third period, while the Heat was 1-for-5. Beasley netted 18 of his team-high 23 points in the second half, 14 in the fourth quarter.
Of course, if you like your ball YMCA rec style, the first half was more your speed. Loose balls. Loopy passes. Loopier shots. Missed dunks. Bodies all over the floor.
Coming off an 0-3 road swing, Malone stressed defense — or a return to some semblance of it — publicly and privately the previous two days. So when the Nuggets turned it over twice in the first 47 seconds and saw the Heat race to a 4-0 edge, the coach wasn't pleased, calling timeout to immediately read his team the riot act.
"That's what coaches do," shrugged Jokic, who dropped 23 points and 12 boards on the Heat, draining all three of his 3-point attempts in the process. "We weren't ready to play."
They got the message, loud and clear. The Nuggets, who host the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night, closed out the first period on a 13-6 run thanks to 13 points off the bench from Morris, who finished with 17, in that quarter alone.
When the Nuggets visited South Florida on Jan. 8, the Heat connected on just 8-of-31 attempts from beyond the arc and shot 45.8 percent from the floor as Denver toughed out a 103-99 win. Monday? New arena. Same story.