MIAMI (AP) — The Miami Heat were outrebounded by 28, matching the second-largest margin in team history. They finished with only 24 boards, matching the second-lowest total in any game over the franchise’s quarter-century of existence.
Somehow, none of that mattered.
Dwyane Wade scored 24 points, LeBron James added 22 points and 11 assists and the Heat survived a strangely one-sided night on the glass to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 103-92 on Tuesday night – becoming the first team since 1994 to be outrebounded by such a wide margin and still win, according to STATS LLC.
”I don’t know how many times I’ve seen that, where you get doubled up on the rebounding and still escape with the win,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ”That’s a tough team. They’re unique. Relentless on the glass. There’s not many teams like them.”
The final rebounding margin: Minnesota 52, Miami 24.
Chris Bosh scored 15 points and Mario Chalmers added 12 for the Heat, who gave up 21 of the game’s first 24 rebounds.
Andrei Kirilenko scored 22 for Minnesota, which played without guard Ricky Rubio, who’s being eased back after recovering from knee surgery. The Timberwolves dropped their second straight. Kevin Love finished with 11 points and 18 rebounds, and Nikola Pekovic had a 18-point, 12-rebound effort for the Timberwolves.
”We were pretty active. What we take away from it is we’ve got to be more physical,” Love said. ”I’m not saying we’re soft but we definitely need to be more physical. And we are in stretches.”
James topped the 20-point mark for the 27th straight regular-season game and 43rd straight overall.
”We’re getting better every night,” James said.
A 24-9 run in the second half was the deciding blow for Miami, with James leading the way, getting 11 of those points and assisting on three other scores during the spurt. James had a pair of 3-pointers during the run, including one that put Miami up by 10 late in the third, and then he capped it with a three-point play after connecting on a running jumper with 10:26 left.
In eight minutes, what was a 63-62 deficit became an 86-72 Miami lead.
And when James took an alley-oop from Ray Allen for a dunk in transition with 7:36 left, the lead was 16 – then Miami’s largest – and the reigning NBA MVP’s streak of 20-point games was extended as well. On the next Miami possession, James found Shane Battier for a 3-pointer along the left wing. The lead was 97-78 with 7:09 left, and James walked back to the Heat bench pumping his right fist with satisfied emphasis.
”That’s an unbelievable rebounding team,” Wade said. ”We made up for it with our energy.”
That, and 14 blocks, tied for fourth-most in Heat history. Miami blocked 15 shots on three other occasions.
Wade – generously listed at 6-foot-4 – blocked a two-handed dunk try by the 6-10 Love at the rim to spark one second-quarter burst, and also registered a block against the 6-11 Pekovic later in the period.
Wade had a pair of spectacular plays at the rim in the second as well, and he set Chalmers up for a 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds left in the half to send Miami into the break with a 52-49 edge.
It was the fifth straight time the Heat have beaten the Timberwolves. The last time Minnesota beat Miami was Feb. 23, 2010 – not all that long ago in real time but eons ago in Heat time, considering none of the five players in the starting lineup for that loss were even on last season’s championship team, much less on the current roster.
Luke Ridnour scored 13 and JJ Barea added 10 for Minnesota.
”I like the way our guys battled,” Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman said. ”We just have to respond.”
Minnesota’s frontcourt of Kirilenko, Love and Pekovic knew it had a size advantage, but what it managed on the glass in the early going was ridiculous. Minnesota’s rebounding edge was 13-2 after nine minutes – Love already had seven – and 18-3 after the first quarter.
The Timberwolves had 17 second-chance points in the first quarter alone, after coming into the night averaging 15 per game all season.