It’s all coming to fruition. This is what the NBA world expected when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh formed a genuine and physical version of Voltron in the Summer of 2010.
With a 97-81 win over an injury-depleted Minnesota Timberwolves, the Miami Heat set a franchise record for consecutive wins with 15. It breaks the former record of 14 that was set during the days of Shaquille O’Neal in 2005.
The Heat didn’t exactly acquire any style points on their way to this win. They allowed Minnesota to hang around until the end thanks in part to 23 turnovers. Seven of those turnovers alone came from LeBron, while Dwyane decided to chip in five of his own as well.
Outside of turnovers, Wade and James were at their usual best. Dwyane continued his recent torrid stretch of dominance with 32 points, ten assists and seven rebounds in 38 minutes, while LeBron dropped in a quiet and pedestrian, at least to his standards, 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Mickael Gelabale, the poor sap who was given the assignment of defending LeBron, didn’t exactly draw the fury of James. Gelabale just couldn’t evoke the same drive and motor that LeBron had when he squared up with Carmelo Anthony the day before.
Dwyane Wade, on the other hand, saw Luke Ridnour as his assignment for the night and knew he was going to score often. Wade consistently made his presence felt in the paint and was a game-high +23 in the plus/minus ratio.
Ridnour, meanwhile, needed 14 shots to score nine shots. Wade definitely got the upper hand on this one, creating some highlight plays along the way.
This was Wade’s third game with at least 30 in the past six and his seventh consecutive game shooting at least 50 percent, this time hitting 15 of his 23 shot attempts. The ten assists was also a season-high for Wade, who has had at least six dimes in the past five.
Wade and James were supported by Ray Allen’s 13 points off the bench and Chris Bosh’s 11 points and nine rebounds. Bosh only had five field-goal attempts on the night and was largely ignored on the offensive end.
Allen ended up playing a big role late, as usual. In a six-point game, Allen frustrated J.J. Barea into running his shoulder through him and knocking him down in the process. Barea received a flagrant-two that resulted in an ejection. The Heat got three free throws with Timberwolves’ coach Rick Adelman adding on a technical.
The Heat did Minnesota a favor. Barea was 1-of-11 with four turnovers in 22 minutes. It looks like he took out his whole night’s struggles on a 38-year-old.
Miami went on a 21-11 run following Barea’s ejection.
Minnesota was led by Derrick Williams’ 25 points and 10 rebounds. Ricky Rubio had 14 points, eight assists, six steals, five rebounds and six turnovers in 39 minutes. The Wolves were playing without Kevin Love, Andrei Kirilenko, Nikola Pekovic, Chase Budinger, and Brandon Roy.
Nevertheless, Minnesota still hung around until the early portion of the fourth quarter. A 67-54 lead quickly deteriorated and the Timberwolves found themselves within three with ten minutes left.
A 12-2 run by the Heat, enabled by Barea’s flagrant, gave Miami the cushion they needed to relax.
Tack it up to a lack of focus and possibly even some fatigue. The matchup featured the Heat on the second night of a back-to-back that’s coming on the heels of a win where they needed to erase a 16-point deficit.
Plus, this was one of those games where the Heat knew they didn’t have to perform near to the level they play against the elite squads of the NBA. Minnesota didn’t offer too large of a challenge, especially with Andrei Kirilenko and Nikola Pekovic being game-time scratches.
It didn’t take much from Miami, and it probably won’t take much for them to win the next two home games against a 17-44 Orlando Magic team and a 23-35 Philadelphia 76ers team they just beat by 24.
It’s that final stop on the redemption tour against the Indiana Pacers that’s being looked forward to. The Heat, however, will need to focus on the Magic.
Miami won the first meeting of the series in overtime 112-110. LeBron had 36 to lead all scorers, but it was Nikola Vucevic’s 29 rebounds that stole the show.