The Miami Heat had a 103-92 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves at AmericanAirlines Arena, Dwyane Wade leading the way for the Heat with 24 points.
Photographer: Mike Ehrmann, Getty Images
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But this never has been about beef, bulk or brawn.
Not with lithe Chris Bosh at centMinnesotaer, undersized Shane Battier as the championship power forward, and Josh Harrellson and Dexter Pittman as mascots.
So the Heat instead Tuesday night turned to what they do best: disrupt on defense, torment in transition, essentially maximize their South Beach diet.
And just like that, there was a 103-92 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves at AmericanAirlines Arena, Dwyane Wade leading the way for the Heat with 24 points.
"I don't know how many times I've seen that, where you get doubled up on the rebounding and still escape with a win," coach Erik Spoelstra said.
"Rebounding helps, but there are a lot of other factors."
For his part, Love closed with 18 rebounds as part of the Timberwolves' 52-24 final advantage, slowed in his pace only by third-quarter foul trouble.
But while the 'Wolves were flexing, the Heat were pestering and pouncing, forcing 20 Minnesota turnovers that they turned into 25 points, enough to help offset Minnesota's 34-5 scoring advantage on second-chance points.
"We know we can rebound against anybody when we're really focused and committed to it," Spoelstra said. "We were committed in the second half."
And creative, putting into play the "tip drill" they have worked on in practice, tipping rebounds to teammates when control is not possible.
"That's what we were left to do," Spoelstra said. "When we needed it, we finally made the adjustment."
With LeBron James turning into a playmaker, closing with 11 assists in addition to 22 points and four of the Heat's 12 blocked shots, the Heat played as the fleet-afoot vision crafted by Pat Riley and Spoelstra, a particularly effective approach against an opponent playing on the second night of a back-to-back set and lacking rehabilitating guard Ricky Rubio.
"That is our identity to create havoc on who we are playing and try to make them feel uncomfortable," Spoelstra said.
The 24 rebounds were the second fewest in the Heat's 25 seasons, the 14 blocks the fourth most.
"In the second half," Spoelstra said of his players, "guys were flying around."
With his 22 points, James has now scored 20 or more in the Heat's 22 games, the longest such streak to open a season since former Utah Jazz forward Karl Malone did it in the first 22 games in 1989-90.
But it was rebounding that was the talk of the locker room.
"I haven't seen a deficit like that," James said. "We were getting killed on the glass. We just had to keep fighting."
Said Wade, "You have to make up for it in other areas. And we did a good job of making up for it."
And so the Heat closed out a six-game homestand at 4-2, with consecutive convincing victories over the Washington Wizards and Timberwolves, after losses earlier to the New York Knicks and Golden State Warriors. This final score was particularly deceptive, with Minnesota empting its bench midway through the final period, after the Heat pushed their lead to 19.
Next up is a Thursday trip against the Dallas Mavericks, before a set of home games that concludes Christmas Day in a 2012 NBA Finals rematch against the Oklahoma City Thunder, another team that supposedly had too much length and bulk for the Heat.
For the Heat, save for the struggles of power forward Udonis Haslem, who dealt with foul trouble and a technical foul, this was a well-rounded effort, with Bosh coming around for 15 points, point guard Mario Chalmers 4 of 6 on 3-pointers, backup point guard Norris Cole providing the type of energy against J.J. Barea the Heat lacked in the 2006 NBA Finals, and Joel Anthony, Mike Miller, Ray Allen and Battier also providing their hustle moments.
"It's not a way I think we want to test every single night," Battier said of surviving the rebounding deficit.
Forward Andrei Kirilenko, the long-limbed complement to the Timberwolves' bruising front-line bulk, led the Timberwolves with 22 points, with the lack of consistent offense in the absence of Rubio's playmaking leading to Minnesota's demise.
Amid his recovery from last season's devastating knee injury, Rubio is being held out of back-to-back games, having played in Monday's road loss to the Orlando Magic.
Wade took care of the bulk of the Heat's offense in the first half, with 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting, as the Heat took a 52-49 lead into the intermission after a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Chalmers.
The Heat's halftime lead came despite being outrebounded 28-10 over the opening two periods, with Love recording 14.
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