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James powers Heat past Nuggets, 97-94

DENVER -- LeBron James returned from a groin injury to score 26 points on his birthday, and the Miami Heat beat the skidding Denver Nuggets 97-94 Monday night despite losing Dwyane Wade and Norris Cole during the game.

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 defeat.

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 had 26 points to lead the Nuggets, who lost their second straight to Miami at the Pepsi Center after winning the previous 10 in a row.

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, the Heat said on Twitter.

Pelicans 110, Trail Blazers 108 Tyreke Evans hit a pull-up jumper from 17 feet with 1.2 seconds left to lift New Orleans over Portland.

Evans' big basket came right after Portland's Damian Lillard, who has hit several game-winners this season, made a contested 3-pointer to tie the score at 108.

Jrue Holiday scored 15 of his season-high 31 points in the fourth quarter and tied a season high with 13 assists for the Pelicans, who won their fourth in a row at home. Anthony Davis added 27 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks. Evans had 20 points.

Davis forced LaMarcus Aldridge into a tough shot from the baseline that bounced off the top of the backboard as time ran out.

Lillard scored 29 points and Aldridge had 28 for the Trail Blazers (24-7), who lost their second straight.

Mavericks 100, Timberwolves 98 Shawn Marion scored 32 points and hit two huge 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to help Dallas withstand a furious second-half charge from Minnesota.

Dirk Nowitzki had 16 points for the Mavericks, who led by 19 late in the first half before the Wolves came back.

Kevin Love had 36 points, 11 rebounds and four assists, and his 3-pointer 90 seconds into the fourth quarter gave the Wolves an 86-85 lead. They led 90-87 midway through the period, but Marion hit two 3-pointers during a 10-0 run to put the Mavericks back in front.

Love had a shot to win it on the last possession, but Marion knocked his shot out of bounds. Love thought he was fouled, and replays appeared to support him. But no whistle was blown.

Marion made 14 of 19 shots and also had six rebounds and three assists. He topped 30 points for the first time since the 2008-09 season.

Other games on Monday:

Suns 107, Clippers 88

Wizards 106, Pistons 99

Bulls 95, Grizzlies 91

Jazz 83, Bobcats 80

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In this photo taken by Garrett W. Ellwood and provided by NBAE via Getty Images/AFP, Miami Heat's LeBron James #6 drives to the basket against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado on Monday, Dec. 30. (AFP)

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