As anomalies go, Tuesday night’s game against the Timberwolves was a rare bird. The Heat won by 11 points but was outrebounded by 28.
The Heat defeated the Timberwolves 103-92 despite getting hammered on the glass by crafty Kevin Love and hulking Nikola Pekovic. Minnesota outrebounded the Heat 52-24. The game turned at the three-point line. The Heat (16-6) was 13 of 25 from three-point range while the Wolves (12-11) were 4 of 17 from distance.
“I don’t know how many times I’ve seen that, when you get doubled up on the rebounding and you still win,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We’ll take it.”
To make up for the rebounding, the Heat found other ways to steal points. Just as odd as the rebounding numbers, the Heat had 14 blocks while the Wolves recorded just one. Minnesota shot 43 percent from the field.
The 14 turnovers was the fourth most in franchise history. The Heat has blocked 15 shots in a game three times in 25 years. With 12 steals, the Heat scored 25 points off of 20 turnovers by Minnesota.
“We made it up in other areas,” Dwyane Wade said. “We had a lot of steals, deflections.”
How rare was Tuesday’s victory considering the rebounding discrepancy? Since the 1985-86 season, teams are 106-3 in games with a plus-28 rebounding margin, according to basketball-reference.com.
“It’s uncanny how they’re able to rebound like that one or two feet below the rim,” Spoelstra said of the Wolves. “Love and Pekovic have tremendous hands. They do a great job of leveraging their bodies and the balls just drop to them.”
Love finished the game with 18 rebounds. He had 14 in the first half. Pekovic, the 6-11, 290-pound monster from Montenegro, had 12 rebounds, including nine on the offensive glass.
“We understand that last year in the playoffs we rebounded at a high clip,” LeBron James said. “It’s a collective with this group. It’s not going to be one guy that has a Kevin Love game for a Dwight Howard game. We don’t have a guy that’s going to have 18 or 15 every night.”
Counterbalancing all those rebounds, Wade had a great first half and then James took over in the second. Throughout, the Heat’s three-pointer shooters kept it close. Wade finished with 24 points, 18 of which came in the first half. James had 22 points, scoring 14 points in the second half.
James’ thunderous breakaway dunk on an alley-oop from Ray Allen gave the Heat a 94-78 lead. Shane Battier followed with a three-pointer to extend the Heat’s run to 11-2 with 7:38 to play. The three-pointer gave the Heat and 18-point lead.
Adding another level of intrigue to the game, Wade didn’t play in the fourth quarter. He was held out of the rotation after the Heat’s big run and then wasn’t subbed back into the game after Minnesota cut the Heat’s lead to single digits with four minutes to play.
“He had been sitting so long, it would have been counterproductive for him to come back in,” Spoelstra said.
Minnesota cut the Heat’s lead to eight points with 1:50 to play but Norris Cole ended any semblance of suspense when he stripped Wolves point guard J.J. Berea, drove the length of the court on a fast break and then converted a three-point play.
Cole finished with eight points. Starting point guard Mario Chalmers had 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting from three-point range. Battier was 3 of 7 from three-point range for nine points.
Miami took a 10-point lead with 2:32 to play when James made his second three-pointer of the game. It was the Heat’s ninth three-pointer on 14 shots. The Heat led 80-72 entering the fourth quarter with Timberwolves outrebounding the Heat 38-16.
Battier began the fourth quarter with a three-pointer, his first of the game. James followed it up with an old-fashioned three-point play off a foul by reserve Derrick Williams. It gave the Heat an 86-72 advantage with 10:26 left in the game.
The Heat trailed for most of the first half but took the lead at halftime with a three-pointer by Chalmers. Wade found Chalmers trailing the final play of the half and Chalmers knocked down the clutch basket with 0.4 seconds left.
After struggling for about a month, Chalmers has had encouraging numbers in back-to-back games. He was 4 of 8 from the field on Saturday against Washington and 4 of 7 from the field against the Timberwolves.