The Miami Heat walked into Target Center with a big problem over the previous two games — they had been dominated on the glass.
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That was two games too many for LeBron James.
The reigning NBA MVP had 21 points, eight assists and 14 boards for his first double-digit rebounding game of the season, leading the Heat to a 103-82 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night.
Dwyane Wade had 19 points and five rebounds in his return from a two-game absence and the Heat controlled the glass until garbage time after getting hammered on the boards by Detroit and Chicago in consecutive losses. James’ 14 boards were the most he’s had for the Heat in a regular season game.
"Don’t talk about it, just go do it," James said. "To me, when I say it, I go and make it happen."
Kevin Martin scored 19 points for the Timberwolves. But they sorely missed Kevin Love, who was with his family following the death of his grandmother on Wednesday night.
The Wolves shot a franchise-low 29.3 percent while the Heat made 55 percent of their shots to overcome 20 turnovers.
"We didn’t play very tough tonight," Martin said. "The champs showed us how it’s done."
The Heat haven’t lost three in a row in the regular season since January 2012. And James wasn’t about to revisit that slide.
"We don’t like losing back-to-back games, and we definitely don’t want to lose three in a row," James said. "So it was a good pick-up game after the loss to Chicago."
The Heat were bludgeoned on the boards 49-27 by the Bulls on Wednesday night and 46-34 by the Pistons on Tuesday night. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra spoke on Saturday morning of needing all five players on the floor to attack the glass because they don’t have a singular rebounding force like the Wolves do.
Despite having to go to the bench earlier than usual with two fouls in the first quarter, James still managed to rack up 10 rebounds before the first half was over. He posted his highest regular-season rebounding total since his last season in Cleveland, when he grabbed 16 against Sacramento on Dec. 23, 2009.
Minnesota just barely won the rebounding battle, 45-44. But the Heat won on the defensive glass, 37-28.
The night was punctuated in the third quarter when Wade threw a pass off the glass to a soaring James for a 71-57 lead.
"He came out with force," Spoelstra said of James. "And it was on both ends. He was active, he was over the top with his athleticism. Some of the rebounds were up over the crowd, playing out of the post, but also in transition playing in a different motor."
Wade missed the previous two games, first with knee soreness and then because of an illness. He suffered a scare in the first quarter when he appeared to bang his right knee as he crashed to the court. He writhed in pain for a few minutes, but was able to get up and keep going.
The Heat play at Detroit on Sunday, but it wasn’t certain that Wade would play. Spoelstra likes to rest him on back-to-backs to reduce the wear and tear on his knees.
Nikola Pekovic had 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Wolves, who were playing after a game against San Antonio in Mexico City on Wednesday night was postponed due to smoke in the arena.
Minnesota point guard Ricky Rubio struggled mightily with one point on 0-for-4 shooting, six assists and six turnovers.
"It seems like we were scared," Rubio said. "That can’t happen."
NOTES: Chris Bosh had nine rebounds for the Heat. … Love is expected to practice Sunday and be in uniform for the Wolves’ next game against the Pistons on Tuesday. … The Heat stayed in a hotel just across the street from the arena, but took a bus for the morning shootaround as most teams do. Spoelstra usually walks when he’s here. But a wind chill that dipped to 15-below zero made him think otherwise. "I had to make it from the door to the bus," Spoelstra said. "Those 10 steps were about as tough as it gets."