We knew the Miami Heat would run into some trouble under the board against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
With a frontline boasting Andrei Kirilenko, Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic, the Wolves managed to absolutely annihilate the Heat in the rebounding department; winning by an edge of 53-24. Alone, Kevin Love had 18 rebounds and had two more rebounds at the half than the entire Miami team. Minnesota built a 17-3 rebounding edge in the first quarter.
Since this season has made no sense, however, the Heat ended up winning 103-92, and the final score doesn’t indicate just how dominant they were in the second half. Miami forced 20 turnovers and scored 25 points off of said turnovers, cancelling out Minnesota’s 32-5 edge in second chance points, and held the Wolves to 4-of-17 shooting from beyond the arc.
Meanwhile, the Heat had one of their best nights of shooting: converting 13-of-25 on three-pointers. Mario Chalmers led the charge from the perimeter, raining in four three-pointers on six attempts. Shane Battier converted three, including two in the fourth that helped the Heat stretch their lead to 19, while LeBron James contributed two.
James overcame a slow start to finish with one of his most well-rounded statlines of the year: 22 points, 11 assists, 6 rebounds, 4 blocks, and 0 turnovers in 42 minutes. He played the entire second half and fueled the Heat’s third quarter run that picked up steam when Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh left the floor.
LeBron extended his consecutive games streak with 20 points or more to 28, which ties Karl Malone for the most all-time.
Wade kept the Heat around in the first half. He made mincemeat of Wolves’ 6’7″ shooting guard Alexey Shved, scoring on a number of post-ups and finding the majority of his shots coming near the basket. Wade finished with 24 points on 14 shots, while finding the time to block the dunk of Kevin Love and a hook shot of Nikola Pekovic’s, and his assignment contributed two points on seven shots.
It’s the fifth time in the past eight games where Wade has recorded at least 20 points.
Before the Heat put any sort of Wolves’ comeback out of reach, Minnesota built up a nine-point lead and giving Miami all they could handle. Defense wasn’t the issue as the Heat found themselves getting heavily out-worked on the boards, allowing a majority of the Wolves’ points off of second chances. All in all, Minnesota held a tremendous advantage in rebounds, including an 18-6 edge on the offensive glass.
Love and Pekovic combined for 30 rebounds, while Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem had one defensive rebound combined. Haslem had none in18 minutes worth of action. LeBron James led the way for the Heat with six. Miami hasn’t been out-rebounded this badly since 2001. It’s the first time since 1994 that a team outrebounded by 28 has won a game.
For the most part, Miami’s defense had one of its better days of the year. Minnesota shot only 43 percent from the field and took only 19 free throws, and were led by Andrei Kirilenko’s 22 points. The Heat held the team’s All-Star power forward to 11 points on 2-of-10 shooting, while also wreaking havoc on diminutive point guard J.J. Barea who finished with 10 points on nine shots.
The Wolves were without Ricky Rubio, who is going through a maintenance problem that has him sitting out the second night of back-to-backs, as well as Chase Budinger and Brandon Roy.
Barea was harassed by Norris Cole throughout the night. Watching Barea struggled against a fellow undersized guard only made us think what could have been had Cole been on the Heat circa 2011 NBA Finals. Barea found his usual penetration of the lane difficult with Cole managing to keep his body in front of him.
Cole finished with eight points on 3-of-6 shooting to go along with four assists, two rebounds, two steals and two blocks. He has been an excellent spark off the bench this season, compensating in a big way for the struggles of Chalmers, who had one of his better nights of the season against Minnesota.
The Heat’s six-game homestand comes to a close, finishing 4-2 with wins over Washington, Minnesota, Atlanta and New Orleans and losses at the hands of Golden State and New York. They now travel to Dallas for a meeting taking place on Thursday.