LeBron, Heat flex collective muscle against Timberwolves
MINNEAPOLIS — Dwyane Wade required only a subtle glance over his left shoulder to anticipate LeBron James’ next move.
Brief eye contact, a sharp step toward the basket, a perfectly placed alley-oop off the glass, and the kind of thunderous finish a sellout congregation of 19,888 paid to see when the defending NBA champions came to town.
Against a listless and leaderless Timberwolves bunch, the King and his subjects displayed their penchant for making the near-impossible look easy in a 103-82 victory.
“The champs showed us how it’s done,” shooting guard Kevin Martin said.
Without Kevin Love to counterbalance James’ indubitable dominance, the two-time reigning MVP went off for his third double-double of the season — a game-high 21 points and 14 rebounds, his most boards in a regular-season game since 2009. Wade returned from illness to score 19 on 7-of-14 shooting, and the franchise-pillar pair helmed an imperforate dismantling of a Minnesota team that has now lost seven of its past nine and fallen two games below .500.
Upsetting a hacked-off Heat bunch coming off consecutive losses while Love visits his family in Portland, Ore., to mourn the loss of his maternal grandmother seemed like a long shot. But so did the league’s No. 3 scoring team setting a new franchise low for field-goal percentage. The Timberwolves’ 29.3-percent clip — courtesy of 58 missed shots, a lot of them in or near the paint — was the worst in the organization’s 25-year history.
“It’s hard when you’re shooting 30 percent,” said Adelman, whose team fell to 9-11 on the year.
Minnesota went 24-for-82 from the floor and 5-for-22 from 3-point range. Kevin Martin scored a team-high 19 points on 5-of-16 shooting. Nikola Pekovic’s 18 points were tempered by 11 misses, many of them looks the mammoth center usually floats home.
The rest of the Timberwolves: 12-for-48.
“We didn’t move the ball the way we talked about moving it against them,” Adelman said. “The ball’s got to move if you’re gonna get shots. Even when we did get good shots, we couldn’t make them.”
Corey Brewer, who scored 13 points on a 3-for-10 effort, didn’t have an explanation.
“I couldn’t even tell you,” Brewer said. “I can’t say ‘legs,’ because we shouldn’t have been tired. We were just missing shots tonight.”
Miami had struggled on the interior in its most recent outings before outscoring Minnesota 56-28 in the paint. Chris Andersen’s physicality taxed Pekovic, and James and Wade were their usual rim-rattling selves.
“We just allowed them too many layups and too many open shots,” Pekovic said. “I knew it was going to be a tough, tough game, especially for me.”
The Heat (15-5) also outscored the Timberwolves 24-14 on the break and shot 55.1 percent themselves.
And to think the two sides traded punches in the early going.
Minnesota actually led by as many as six thanks to a 21-7 first-quarter run. The Heat countered with a 16-2 jaunt of their own to open the second quarter and took a 35-27 lead on Wade’s long jumper.
The Timberwolves went on a 14-6 run to start the third and trailed 61-56 with 6:25 left in the quarter. Miami answered again, this time with a decisive 15-4 sequence highlighted by Wade’s alley-oop off the glass to James at the third frame’s 2:49 mark.
“Everything went wrong for us,” said Rubio, who went 0-for-4 from the field and tallied as many turnovers (six) as assists. “It seems like we were scared.
“That can’t happen.”
Adelman and his players said the team’s Mexico-postponement-induced five-day layoff between games is no excuse for a historically woeful performance.
The absence of Love, though, changed the game’s dynamics considerably — less open space for Martin to operate, an easier time for Andersen, Chris Bosh and Shane Battier to use their length and trap, and more pressure on Pekovic to tear down rebounds (he had 12).
“He’s our best player,” Martin said of Love, who is expected to rejoin the team Sunday. “We missed him tonight.”
But Love or no Love, this was a lesson in forced humility against the NBA’s alpha dogs the past few seasons.
“They’re one of the better teams,” Adelman said, “and so how are you going to counter that? You’re going to counter that by playing together — much better than we did tonight.”
Said Martin: “We can probably learn everything, from the way (the Heat) put their socks on to the way they play the game as a team.”
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