Minnesota Timberwolves 81, Miami Heat 97

AP Photo/Jim Mone

AP Photo/Jim Mone

Game Summary

Well, that was fun.  The Miami Heat visited the Twin Cities and left with another victory, their 15th win in a row this season.  The Timberwolves brought a lot of effort but their shorthanded staff really hurt Monday night and honestly, no one should really be surprised.  Here is how the game transpired.

The Pups were still without Pekovic and Kirilenko – to go along with the ‘regulars’ who have missed significant time this season.  The starting five for the Wolves was the same from Saturday night in Portland and included Rubio, Ridnour, Gelabale, Williams, and Stiemsma.  No surprises from the Heat, who opened up with Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh.

The game got off to slow start offensively.  Going into the first timeout of the game, the Heat held an 11-8 lead.  The Wolves turned the ball over twice early, and Rubio missed two free throws.  In essence, not much changed since the road trip.  Meanwhile, it was the Wade and James show on Miami’s end.  They accounted for all 11 points and several highlight moves around the rim.

At the end of the 1st quarter, the Heat held a 22-16 lead.  Chris Bosh also came to life in the latter stages of the quarter, chipping in 5 points and 3 rebounds.  No one on the Wolves had more than 4 points and it was a rather dull opening twelve minutes.

After Miami widened its margin to double digits, the Wolves answered with their own 9-2 run to cut the lead to 4 points.  Derrick Williams hit a few mid-range jumpers while Rubio was active on the defensive end which led to fast break points.  The remainder of the 2nd quarter was played at a nice pace with the home team being able to keep it close.  Unfortunately for the Wolves (and the pad underneath the rim), Rubio missed a tip-in as time expired in the half.  (Rubio subsequently right-crossed the pad and stormed into the locker room.)

At the half, the Heat held a 50-43 advantage.  Here are a few halftime thoughts through my Wolves lens:

  • JJ Barea was 1-7 from the field in the 1st half and completely maddening to watch
  • I wish Rubio’s effort and visible frustration with losing was more contagious with the Pups
  • Mike Miller gets 0 PT in Miami (although I figure he will see some time in the 2nd half)

The Heat opened up the 3rd quarter with a 12-5 run and opened up their biggest lead of the game to that point (14 points).  However, once again the Wolves were able to respond with a 6-0 run of their own.  This included Ricky Rubio pickpocketing Mario Chalmers around half court and scoring on a layup on the other end of the floor.

Ricky Rubio, Derrick Williams and small contributions from Shved and Cunningham, helped keep the Wolves in the game through three quarters.  While the Pups were trailing 69-63, they were right there going into the final twelve minutes, despite the albatross that is, JJ Barea; who was 1-9 from the field through three quarters.

Minnesota continued to scrap with the Heat, which included JJ Barea getting under Ray Allen’s skin by … being JJ Barea.  Allen wasn’t amused at all and some choice words were exchanged.  During a commercial break, the refs decided that Barea’s foul was a Flagrant 2, which made absolutely no sense.  To make matters worse, the refs also gave Adelman one technical and on the next trip down the floor, called Alexey Shved for a leg kick-out after a made three pointer, which nullified the basket and essentially killed the Wolves momentum.

When an actual basketball game resumed, the Heat took command of the game and pulled away from the Wolves.  This included the aforementioned Mike Miller sighting.  With nothing more to say about the game itself, Jim Pete went into a thirty second rant about how infuriating Miller’s time with the Wolves was.  Thank you Jim, thank you!

After Barea was tossed, the Heat closed the game on a 21-11 run and took their 15th straight victory with a 97-81 win at the Target Center.

Keys of the Game

  • Strength – Sounds ridiculous huh?  Well, when you have LeBron James and Dwyane Wade against an undermanned and undersized Wolves team, I’ll just go with “strength” over “talent”.  James and Wade were able to do virtually whatever they wanted, particularly in getting to the paint.
  • Shooting Percentages – This is getting old right?  Heat = 51% FG%, 84% FT%; Wolves = 38% FG%, 67% FT%.
  • Bad JJ Barea – I’m not talking about his trucker/potty mouth either.  1-11 from the field, and no regard for running Adelman’s offense.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Dwyane Wade – Wade abused Ridnour and the rest of the Pups that tried to guard him.  32 points on 15-23 shooting, to go with 10 assists and 7 rebounds.
  2. LeBron James – For the first time seeing LeBron play (this work week), I have to say he is pretty good.  James finished with 20 & 10.  Despite the 7 turnovers, James dominated around the paint and set the tone early with Wade.
  3. Ricky Rubio – The Unicorn finished with 14 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds, and 6 steals.  Quite the performance from Ricky on another nationally televised game.

Derrick Williams (and not Mike Miller) gets an honorable mention as DWill had another double-double (25 & 10) for the Wolves and remains the only bright spot on the club beyond Rubio.

Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Miami Heat, 3/4/13

Photo Credit: REUTERS

Photo Credit: REUTERS

Setting the stage:

The hottest team in the league just so happens to be the best team in the league and the defending NBA champions; and they happen to be on their way to Minneapolis to take on our reeling Wolves.  Monday’s game will be broadcast on NBA TV for the masses to see, as the Heat come into the game with a 14 game winning streak.  The Wolves are the complete antithesis of the Heat right now, having lost 5 in a row and 21 of 25.

The Heat are putting distance between themselves and the rest of the Eastern Conference, building a 7+ game advantage over the rest of the conference over the past few weeks.  They look like the clear favorites to reach (and win) the NBA Finals.  LeBron is playing in another stratosphere this season and has shown no signs of slowing down.

The Heat took down the Wolves 103-92 in Miami on 12/18 and the game never felt as close as the final score would indicate.  The Wolves were nearly at full strength in that encounter and as you are likely well aware, that isn’t the case right now.  It is still to be determined whether or not Kirilenko will be ready to go Monday night, but the remaining Pups that missed Saturday’s game in Portland will all likely miss Monday’s game as well.

Derrick Williams has been one of the few bright spots over the past few weeks for the Timberwolves.  He will be asked to do a little bit of everything and much more in order for the Wolves to even remain competitive against the Heat.  It will also be interesting to see who he matches up with on the defensive end of the floor given the current starting lineup for the Heat.

Player to watch:

LeBron James – I don’t think we need to go very much further than just mentioning his name at this point, do we?  He’s only averaging 27 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists this season, so sit back and enjoy the greatest professional basketball player on the planet Monday night.  If AK47 isn’t ready to go, and even if he is, you might see a very special performance in the first three quarters of play.

Match-up to watch:

Luke Ridnour vs. Dwyane Wade.  I’m getting tired of picking Rubio and Pekovic for this section and who knows who else will be suiting up for the Wolves by the time tip-off comes.  Luke has been shooting the ball better as of late, but has the unenviable task of matching up against Wade on Monday night.  This could get ugly fast.

Predictions:

Even with the Heat playing Sunday against the Knicks and the Wolves having an off day, Minnesota is probably going to be about +1100 in Vegas.  This is likely to be a long night for Wolves fans.  My advice: try to enjoy watching the Heat.

Final score prediction: Twolves 84, Heat 98

Three stars of the game predictions:

  1. LeBron James
  2. Dwyane Wade
  3. Ricky Rubio

Let’s go Wolves!

Minnesota Timberwolves 92 – Miami Heat 103

LeBron StuffThe Timberwolves finished off their trip to Florida on Tuesday night with a loss to the Miami Heat.  As mentioned before the team even left Minnesota (i.e. please do not fine us Commissioner!), the Wolves played without Ricky Rubio tonight in order to avoid aggravating his knee and putting the stress of back-to-back games on it.

The Wolves opened up with the same starting five from last night – Ridnour, Shved, Kirilenko, Love, and Pekovic.  The Heat opened up with Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, some guy named LeBron James, Udonis Haslem, and Chris Bosh.  The Heat had been playing LeBron at the PF spot, but they went big to open the game to better match up against the Pups, or at least that is what I’m telling myself to feel better about the game.

The Wolves played solid basketball in the first quarter.  Pekovic and Kirilenko were playing well on both sides of the ball.  Unfortunately, Alexey Shved met the wrath of D Wade, who was probably the first opponent this season to make Shved look like a rookie.  Going into the first timeout, the Wolves held a 14-12 lead thanks to a Ridnour jumper.

With just under a minute to go in the quarter, AK47 hit a three pointer to give the Wolves a 27-21 lead.  Unfortunately, despite two additional trips down the court, the Wolves couldn’t build the lead any further, as Ridnour missed two three pointers to end the 1st with the same 27-21 advantage.  Thank goodness for AK47, who led the Wolves in the 1st with 11 points and terrific defense on LeBron.

The 2nd quarter started in a similar back and forth mode with neither team capable of making a large run going into the official timeout and the Wolves holding a 33-29 advantage.  It was also nice to see Mike Miller make an appearance on the court.  (I loathed every second of the Mike Miller era with the Pups.  I’ll stop here.)

After an offensive rebound for the Wolves, Kevin Love drew a loose ball foul on the Haslem, who then drew a technical foul for himself to boot.  After hitting a FT and making a layup seconds later, the Wolves held a 41-32 lead.  If fans started to feel good about the advantage it must have quickly evaporated as the Heat went on a 9-1 run to cut the lead to a single point before Shved made a jumper to bring the score to 44-41.

After a few rounds of throwing punches, Mario Chalmers hit what felt like could have been the knockout uppercut punch at the buzzer to give the Heat a 52-49 lead going into the locker room.  Even though the game was still very close, this felt like something that could deflate the Wolves team and build momentum for the Heat going into the start of the 2nd half.

Here are a few halftime thoughts through my Wolves lens:

  • Kevin Love’s shooting percentages will even out over the course of the season.  (Keep repeating this to yourselves)
  • The Wolves were dominating the paint against the Heat
  • Without AK47, I don’t think the Wolves have six wins on the season

The first four-five minutes of the 3rd quarter continued the competitive spirit and balance that was seen in the first half.  Despite struggling with his shot in the game, Shved made a few real nice passes to Kirilenko and Pekovic for dunks, giving the Wolves a 63-62 lead.  Then, it all came crashing down.

Dwyane Wade somehow convinced the officials that the Wolves were committing fouls on the defensive end and hit two FT’s to give the Heat the lead.  In succession after this we saw a Wolves turnover, a Bosh from James layup, another Wolves turnover, and a Wade from James layup.  This gave the Heat a 68-63 lead and the Wolves fell apart from here.

The Wolves went cold from the floor and missed a number of short jumpers despite numerous offensive rebounds.  This coincided with LeBron coming to life and hitting a few jump shots and suddenly the lead was up to 10 points, 78-68.  For the final two minutes of the quarter, there was little to no offense, with both teams only scoring points from the FT line.  At the end of three quarters, the Heat held an 80-72 lead.

The Pups opened up the 4th quarter very cold as they were held scoreless (by themselves) for the first 2+ minutes.  By this point, the Heat built their lead to 14 points, 86-72.  To be perfectly honest, I basically threw in the towel a few minutes later when Adelman did … with about 7 minutes left in the game, Stiemsma and Amundson entered the game for the Wolves and that about did it for me too.  This was preceded by a Shane Battier three pointer that increased the Heat lead to 97-78.  The only item worth noting from the extensive “gah-bage” time was Derrick Williams’ time on the floor which felt productive, but again, it was during a stretch of game action where the game was already decided.

The final score looks a lot closer than this one felt, with the Wolves falling to the Heat 103-92.  The Wolves return home for Thursday night’s game against the other defending conference champion, the OKC Thunder.  (Mercy!)

Three Stars of the Game:

  1. LeBron James
  2. Dwyane Wade
  3. Andrei Kirilenko good defense, and the only starter that didn’t turn the ball over

Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves at Miami Heat

Lebron & D-Wade

Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell – US Presswire

The Timberwolves fell asleep last night in the second half in Orlando and ended their four game win streak.  The reward for this is having to play again Tuesday night in Miami against the NBA champions from last season.  Now for the really bad news; the team is going to likely play tonight’s game without Ricky Rubio.  The Wolves staff is trying to limit his minutes this early in his return and is looking to sit him down in back to back games.  After struggling in last night’s game in Orlando, it might be a good idea to continue this plan of attack with Ricky.

It seems like the one force that can stop the Heat are in fact, the Heat.  Perhaps they will take a mental health day and the Wolves can steal a victory.  Perhaps they won’t.  Either way, this should be an entertaining game to watch.  The Heat are 15-6 on the season, including 11-2 at American Airlines Arena.  They are 4th in the league in scoring at 103.1 ppg.  If Tuesday’s opponent has a flaw, it is in their rebounding and lack of a big man / bruiser in the paint.  The Heat have moved Lebron over to the PF spot and Bosh to Center this season, given their lack of talented big men.  That said, we’re talking about the greatest player on the planet right now and he’s still playing with two guys that are in the top thirty in the league.

Player to watch:

Alexey Shved – The rookie has been seeing extensive minutes over the past few weeks and was performing at a high level prior to last night’s stinker (1-8 from the field for 3 points, 5 assists, and 4 turnovers).  He has moved up to 5th place among rookies in scoring (10.6) and 2nd in assists (4.0).  Why is he the player to watch?  It will be interesting to see how he fares against Wade, Allen, and/or Chalmers.

Match-up to watch:

Nikola Pekovic vs. Chris Bosh.  Without Rubio (or a severely limited Rubio) the only way the Pups can pull this one off is if Pekovic can dominate the paint on both ends of the floor and get Bosh in foul trouble.  This is absolutely feasible but still wouldn’t guarantee a win.  Pekovic missed last season’s sole matchup against the Heat, which likely aided in Bosh’s 20-9-4 performance.

Predictions:

Sorry Pups fans, I can’t see how the team pulls off the upset without a fully healthy roster.

Final score prediction: Twolves 98, Heat 105

Three stars of the game predictions:

  1. Dwayne Wade
  2. Andrei Kirilenko
  3. LeBron James

Let’s go Wolves!