Heat 97, Timberwolves 84
Dwyane Wade says it's difficult for him to figure out when he needs to take over games.
Lucky for Miami, the actual act of taking over the games seems to be fairly easy these days for the Heat superstar.
A night after scoring 43 points in an overtime win against Indiana, Wade had 39 against Minnesota in a 97-84 victory Saturday night. With Milwaukee snapping Phoenix's 10-game winning streak Saturday, Miami's eight-win surge is the NBA's longest.
And the Heat own a half-game lead over the Bucks for the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference.
``This has been great,'' Wade said. ``No matter what the score is, no matter what's going on in the game, you believe you can win because you've been playing so well.''
Wade certainly has.
He's scored at least 30 points in four of his last five games. He fueled critical runs at the end of each half to erase any hope Minnesota had of winning consecutive games after snapping a 16-game losing streak.
Not that the Wolves were giving Wade a free pass. Minnesota's big men banged him around, and Wade was slow to get up a couple of times after going down hard. Still, the Wolves had no answer for him offensively.
``Everybody else on his team, they were OK, but he just separated them from us,'' Wolves coach Kurt Rambis said of Wade.
Quentin Richardson had 14 points and Udonis Haslem added 13 for the Heat, who have won 14 of their last 17 games.
Al Jefferson and Ramon Sessions each had 12 points to lead the Wolves, 2-23 since Feb. 6 - with one of those wins coming at Miami on Feb. 23.
Wade made sure the lowly Timberwolves wouldn't make it two straight over his team.
After Miami trailed by seven early, Wade scored 10 of the Heat's final 12 points of the first half to put his Heat ahead 53-44. Then, with Minnesota pulling within seven in the fourth quarter, Wade hit a wide-open 3-pointer at the top of the key to put Miami up 86-76 with 5:33 to play. The Wolves never seriously threatened after that.
``There's not much you can do, that's one of the top five or 10 players in the game,'' Kevin Love said.
After the game, though, the Heat had more to say about their defensive effort than their offense.
``Defensively our numbers are much better, much more consistent,'' Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ``That's giving us a chance to win. What we've said for the past couple of months is that if we defend with that kind of sense of urgency and focus, and if we control the ball and not turn it over, we'll have a chance to win every night.''
The Heat entered the game allowing the second-fewest points in the NBA at 94.11 - Charlotte was No. 1 at 93.45.
Even so, Minnesota looked energized early. Darko Milicic, who entered the game averaging 11 points and six rebounds in his previous seven games, had 10 points and blocked three shots before leaving in the second quarter after taking an elbow to the jaw from Jamaal Magloire.
Milicic went to the locker room area to ice his jaw at 7:51 with the Wolves up by two. Miami outscored Minnesota 22-11 the rest of the half, and Milicic didn't return.
``Losing Darko hurt,'' Rambis said. ``He's such an imposing presence inside defensively, so him not playing the second half hurt us.''
NOTES: Milicic was taken to a Twin Cities hospital for further evaluation, although Rambis said Milicic was expected to join the team for Sunday night's game at Oklahoma City. ... Joel Anthony made his 10th start of the season for Miami. The Heat are 8-2 when he starts at center. ``I like the fact that no one in the league knows who he is,'' Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said before the game. ``I don't like the fact that none of the officials know who he is.'' ... Milicic has scored in double figures in five of his last seven games.