Dwyane Wade kept his team afloat in the first half with an array of moves to the basket and opened 4-5 from the field to begin the game. In return, the Miami Heat's suffocating defense stepped up and broke down the Minnesota Timberwolves' offense after halftime for a dismal 43% field goal-shooting performance which resulted in Wade taking the fourth quarter off.
The Wolves, led by rebounding machine Kevin Love, had an eye-popping 52-24 advantage on the glass but couldn't capitalize and earn a split on their trip to Florida, instead flaming out in the second half with constant turnovers and failing to consistently knock down their jumpers. Although their inside game, led by center Nikola Pekovic and his 18 points that were earned in the paint as well as his combined 30 rebounds with Love, was mostly crisp throughout the game the Heat defenders really picked up their intensity in the second half and contested just about every shot from the visiting team.
The Wolves were their own worst enemy as well, negating a 34-5 second-chance points advantage by allowing 24 Heat fast break points (most, if not all, resulting from turnovers) and only 8 points out on the open floor themselves. They also allowed the Heat to knock down 13 three-pointers, many of them from wide-open looks, but only mustered 4 of their own.
Wade and LeBron James combined for 46 points while Chris Bosh had a quiet 15 points and an unacceptable two rebounds for the entire game. LeBron only scored 4 points in the first half while Wade led the team on offense, but quickly scored 8 points in the third quarter and topped 20+ points for the 43rd straight NBA game. Most impressive might have been what he didn't do tonight: zero fouls and zero turnovers on his way to 11 assists. LeBron hasn't fouled anyone since December 8th against the New Orleans Hornets and only has 6 fouls for the entire month, half of which occurred in the first game of the month in the victory against the Brooklyn Nets.
After solid games recently from Udonis Haslem that earned him a steady shot at starting for the Heat, he was invisible and ineffective tonight with zero rebounds, points, blocks and just one assist and three fouls to his name in 18 minutes.
The defense of Norris Cole and Joel Anthony off the bench in the third quarter helped the Heat finally break the game open and take a lead they wouldn't give up for the rest of the night in what had been a back-and-forth first half. A 12-2 run by the home team opened an eight-point lead halfway through the quarter after two quick plays by LeBron, one to Bosh for a gorgeous alley-oop play and to Wade for the easy lay-up after a turnover, and then he buried a three-pointer for good measure.
The Wolves made it interesting when they went on a 12-2 run late in the fourth quarter and had a chance to cut the deficit to 8 points but Louis Admunson shot an airball attempting a free throw. A pair of free throws by LeBron James and a steal by Norris Cole led to a three-point play as Jose Barea tried to bottle him up by the rim sealed the door shut for the well-deserved victory.
The 24 rebounds by the Heat as a team set a record for the lowest ever in a victory.
For more on the Timberwolves, check out Canis Hoopus