Heat-Timberwolves Preview

Coach Erik Spoelstra doesn’t want his Miami Heat to forget about

getting bullied around in the paint.

He’d rather they learn from their shortcomings, which could be

easier if the NBA’s rebounding leader doesn’t play for the

Minnesota Timberwolves.

With Dwyane Wade’s status uncertain, the Heat will try to avoid

their first three-game losing streak in almost two years Saturday

night when they visit a Timberwolves team that may be without Kevin

Love.

While LeBron James has helped mask some of the team’s

deficiencies in the past, Miami’s ongoing struggles on the glass

have become difficult to ignore after a 107-87 loss at Chicago on

Thursday.

The Heat (14-5) allowed 13 offensive boards while getting

outrebounded 49-27 and outscored 44-34 in the paint en route to

their second straight loss following a 10-game winning streak.

”We can’t just brush this loss aside,” Spoelstra said. ”We

have to really own it, to understand what happened. They just got

whatever they wanted, right in the paint, at the rim and if they

missed those, then they’re just beating us up at the glass.”

Spoelstra’s club has been outrebounded in each of the last seven

games, including by a 95-61 margin in the last two. Miami ranks

29th with a minus-4.6 rebounding margin.

The Heat played without Wade (illness) and big man Chris

Andersen (personal reasons) on Thursday. While Andersen is expected

to rejoin the team, Wade will likely be a game-time decision when

it tries to avoid its first three-game slide since Jan. 10-13,

2012.

Miami is 2-3 this season without the nine-time All-Star, who has

scored 31 points or more in four of his last five trips to

Minneapolis.

The Timberwolves (9-10) have outrebounded their last two

opponents by a 90-80 margin, though Love is uncertain to play after

leaving the team following the death of his maternal

grandmother.

Love, who has yet to miss a game this season, has averaged a

team-best 23.7 points while leading the league with 13.6 rebounds

and 18 double-doubles. If he isn’t able to return, Minnesota is

likely to lean on center Nikola Pekovic, who has averaged 20.5

points and 10.0 rebounds in the last four games.

Kevin Martin should be able to help pick up the scoring since

he’s averaging 26.7 points over the last three.

The Timberwolves, however, will have to tighten things up

defensively after surrendering an average of 109.2 points on 51.6

percent shooting – 46.7 from 3-point range – while dropping four of

five.

The Heat also have slipped on the defensive end, allowing 107

points in both losses on a combined 50.6 percent shooting – 17 of

35 from beyond the arc.

Minnesota hasn’t played in nearly a week after Wednesday’s

scheduled game against San Antonio in Mexico City was postponed

because of smoky conditions inside the arena. The matchup will be

made up in Minnesota at a later date.

It’s a much-needed break for a team that ran out of gas and

allowed 35 fourth-quarter points in a 113-103 loss at Oklahoma City

on Sunday.

“We played tired and lost our confidence with what we’re

supposed to do,” Martin told the league’s official website. “We’ll

learn from that and move on.”

Dating to his time with Cleveland, James has been a part of 14

straight wins against the Timberwolves. He’s averaged 31.0 points,

8.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists in his last eight visits to

Minneapolis.

The Heat have won six straight meetings.