GameDay Blog: Wolves vs. Heat - March 4, 2013

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Final: That's the ballgame. The Wolves fall 97-81 tonight here at Target Center. Miami went on a 21-11 run to end the game after the Barea Flagrant II and ejection. D-Will finishes with 25 points and 10 rebounds, while Ricky finished with 14 points, eight assists, six steals and five rebounds. D-Wade had 32 points and LeBron had 20. More to come tonight on so keep checking back for analysis, interviews, photos, and more. MIA 97, MIN 81

Q4 6:28: Fans are livid right now with the officiating as Shved was called for an offensive foul for kicking his leg out while draining a 3-pointer, and on the next possession Cunningham got called for a charge on the next possession. It's a 13-point game and Wolves ball coming out of the timeout. MIA 83, MIN 70

Q4 8:09: Things are getting a little chippy here at Target Center as J.J. Barea and Ray Allen just had a pretty physical encounter in the Wolves' defensive end that ended with tempers rising and players from each side trying to brake up a bit of a fracas. Meanwhile, Ricky has returned from the locker room and is on the Wolves bench, and Shved is coming alive. He hit a 3-pointer from 25 feet earlier in the quarter, and he just drove to the hoop and put it in to make it a six point game. But Barea just got a flagrant for that altercation with Allen. Allen hit both free throws, then also hit a free throw as Adelman got a technical. That six-point lead just turned into nine points without a second coming off the clock. MIA 79, MIN 70

End Q3: Excellent end of quarter sequence for the Wolves in the third. After a missed field goal, Alexey Shved pulled down the rebound and had the presence of mind to turn around and hit a 16-footer to beat the buzzer. That brought the Wolves to within 69-63. Rubio has an excellent game going with 14 points, 8 assists, five steals and five rebounds. But he is headed to the locker room at the half visibly bothered by something. Will keep you posted. D-Will has 21 points and eight rebounds. MIA 69, MIN 63

Q3 8:13: The Heat just opened up the third quarter on a 10-3 run that included two baskets by Dwyane Wade on Miami's last two possessions, and it's a 14-point game just like that. Wade now had 18 points, while the Wolves are 1-of-6 from the field in the quarter. MIA 60, MIN 46

Halftime: The Heat lead the Wolves 50-43 at the break as Wade has 14 and James has 13. They're holding a 32-16 advantage in the paint and are shooting 58.8 percent as a team. Meanwhile, the Wolves are shooting 43.2 percent and are led by Williams' 12 points and six rebounds, while Ricky has nine points and six assists--all six coming in the second quarter. MIA 50, MIN 43

Q2 5:42: The best moment of the night by far was the Wolves game ops video poking fun at fans wearing Heat jerseys/attire. It starts with a Heat fan doing the Harlem Shake until Crunch comes in and beats the fan down with a plastic baseball bat. Then the video goes to a black screen that reads in Heat font, "Some things get old REAL fast." It ends with a "Bandwagon Fan" cam, showing people wearing Heat attire on the big screen. Great idea and well executed. Meanwhile, D-Wade has 14 points and the Heat lead 39-30. MIA 39, MIN 30

End Q1: After 1 the Wolves are trailing 22-16 and are in need of slowing down the Heat's attack in the paint and in transition. Miami already has 14 points in the paint and eight fast break points, and James and Wade have a combined 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting. The rest of the Heat are 2-for-4. Miami rolled off an 11-2 run to take the lead in teh first. The Wolves begin the second with Rubio, Barea, Shved, Williams and Cunningham on the floor. MIA 22, MIN 16

Q1 5:16: There's no sugarcoating this: In order for the Wolves to beat the Heat tonight, they'll need to limit Miami's transition opportunities and protect the rim. In order to protect the rim, the Wolves need to have Greg Stiemsma in the game and out of foul trouble. But Stiemsma has two fouls early and has left the game in favor of Dante Cunningham, and the Wolves are now playing a smaller lineup here as we head into the first timeout. Meanwhile, the Heat are off and running early and have eight fast break points. D-Wade has six and LeBron has five, accounting for all 11 Heat points while Miami is shooting 5-of-9 from the field. Those two are a combined 5-of-7. It will be a challenge but it's imperative to keep them in half court sets and not let them get out and running all night. The Heat are currently on a 7-0 run. MIA 11, MIN 8

PG-Mario Chalmers, SG-Dwyane Wade, SF-LeBron James, PF-Udonis Haslem, C-Chris Bosh

Wolves: PG-Ricky Rubio, SG-Luke Ridnour, SF-Mickael Gelabale, PF-Derrick Williams, C-Greg Stiemsma

Pregame 7:00 PM: Wolves coach Rick Adelman was in good spirits prior to tonight's game against the Heat, even joking with the media that he's looking for someone to sign a 10-hour contract with the team. More than anything, he's looking for a little extra help guarding LeBron James.

With his team having lost 21 of 25 and having nine healthy players for tonight's game, it was a light-hearted way to approach the contest. But on a serious note, Adelman said it's important to fight every single night because any team can beat anyone on any given night. The key is battling every single night.

“We just keep telling them there’s nothing we can do about it,” Adelman said. “The season isn’t stopping, the games are going to keep coming.”

Ricky Rubio had a microphone on himself during last game, and he was recorded giving rookie guard Alexey Shved encouragement. Adelman sees these as learning moments for his younger players.

“In the long run it’s going to help some of our young guys,” Adelman added. “This is a tough job and you have to approach it every night. Teams win all the time when you don’t expect them to. You have to get something sooner or later, that’s the only thing you can do. We have a great group of guys who busted their tails all year.”

Pregame 6:35 PM: Wolves center Greg Stiemsma went to the Eastern Conference Finals with the Boston Celtics a year ago, where they lost to the Miami Heat in Game 7. He's seen Miami play at their very best, and in watching them and, in particular LeBron James, on film right now there's no doubt they're hitting their stride at just the right time.

For the Wolves, it's an opportunity. A chance to prove that even with injuries providing challenges on a nightly basis that they've got what it takes to take down the defending champions.

"This whole league is the best players in the world, and when you play the best of the best, it's really what you dream about," Stiemsma said. "It's what you work to get to be good at this level."

The Wolves certainly will have their hands full tonight as Miami enters with a 14-game winning streak, and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said forward LeBron James (knee) will warm up and be monitored prior to game time with the expectation of playing. Teammate Chris Bosh joked one of James' legs would need to fall off for him to miss a game and that both are still attached, so it's a good bet he'll be suited up and playing tonight.

From Miami's viewpoint, tonight is a character game. The Heat are coming off a hard-fought road win in New York about 30 hours ago, one that Bosh said was the team's favorite victory in this 14-game winning streak. They had to battle back from 14 points down at the half and used a big fourth from James to win. It was a testament to the Heat's brigade of talent led by James and Dwyane Wade, and ratification that a team needs to play a solid 48 minutes of defense and shoot at a strong clip to beat this team.

That's a challenge that the Wolves, playing with nine guys and for sure without Nikola Pekovic and Andrei Kirilenko, are looking forward to. But the key is not getting caught up in Miami's talents—it is looking internally.

"We still have to execute our stuff," Stiemsma said. "Play D and get back. All the little stuff that they highlighted get taken advantage of with a good team. If you don't do the little things right they will expose you pretty quickly, so we have to make sure we do those."

Spoelstra noted the Wolves outreabounded Miami 53-24 last time the two teams met, which was "one of the most ridiculous rebounding games that we've had," and even though that starting lineup included Pekovic and Kevin Love the Wolves do need to find a way to have similar success on the glass tonight. Extended possessions for Miami will not help with the team's cause tonight.

Spoelstra said he knows that even with injuries the Wolves are going to be a challenge on their home court.

The team down there, they gave us a great battle in Miami. They’ve been dealing with as much adversity in terms of injury as any team in the league. They’ve really assembled an exciting group of young basketball players who are very well coached. But they’re battling, so every team that laces them up, especially against us, we know how it’s been all year. You have to bring it."

Pregame 4:15 PM: Greetings from Target Center on a snowy Monday here in the Twin Cities. For those of you who are coming to tonight’s game I hope you prepped enough time for your commute and get here safely. If it’s possible to get to the arena, it will be worth the commute. The Heat are a must-see draw, and if you’ve never seen LeBron play in person this is the time to do it. He’s playing at an all-time high level right now, and the Heat are currently on their best run during the Big-Three era. Should be a fun one tonight.

For those who haven’t been following LeBron or the Heat this year, you’ve been missing quite a show. They’re currently on a 14-game winning streak dating back to Feb. 1, and during that stretch they’ve scored 100-plus points in 10 contests. Their last two games against Memphis and New York have been nail-biters for the Heat faithful, but Miami has been able to pull out both victories thanks in large part to clutch fourth quarters by James. He just wrapped up February’s Eastern Conference Player of the Month award, giving him all four so far this season. It’s the second time in his career he’s receive at least four straight Player of the Month awards. He put together six straight from March 2009 through February 2010.

The Wolves, on the other hand, have lost five straight and are 4-21 since last being over .500 on Jan. 5. They’re coming off losses in their three-game road trip on the West Coast and in their most recent game were swept in their season series with Portland. They’re hoping to split their season series with Miami tonight, as the Heat beat the Wolves 103-92 on Dec. 18.

The biggest challenge tonight will, of course, be finding ways to contain LeBron and Dwyane Wade. Last time out, Wade provided a “Welcome to the NBA” moment for Alexey Shved as he really made it tough on the rookie with his size and quickness. The Wolves then moved Andrei Kirilenko off of LeBron and helped shut down Wade, but that opened up James in the second half in a pick your poison type of scenario. Tonight, with Kirilenko likely out again with a strained left calf, who is going to be able to handle both James and Wade? That’s a tough task regardless of how many double teams you present.

But that’s not all. Center Nikola Pekovic missed Saturday’s game at Portland with an abdominal strain. Add in Love, and the Wolves could be missing their entire starting front court tonight. It’s a tough task, but the Wolves have been a resilient team all season long and they’ve been a difficult team to beat at home. Tonight’s motto for Minnesota is #FreezeTheStreak, and but the Wolves will need a strong, 48-minute effort to make it happen.

Here are tonight’s pregame notes:

  • The Wolves trail in the all-time series 19-26, but are 12-11 at home. Miami has won the last five meetings and the last four at Target Center. Despite being out-rebounded 52-24, Miami defeated the Wolves 103-92 at AmericanAirlines Arena on Dec. 18, 2012.

  • Ricky Rubio is averaging 13.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 9.8 assists and 2.75 steals in 35.1 minutes per game over the last 12 games. He has recorded six point/assist double-doubles over that stretch. Rubio has tallied double-digit assists in three of the last four games.

  • Nikola Pekovic is averaging 17.0 points, on 52.5% shooting, and 9.7 rebounds in his last 32 games (15 double-doubles). He ranks 19th in the NBA in rebounds with 8.8 rpg, 4th in offensive rebounds with 3.8 per game, 20th in double-doubles with 21 and 27th in field goal percentage at 50.9%. Pekovic has pulled down at least one offensive board in 60 straight games, the 3rd-longest active streak in the NBA (Kevin Love - 75, Tyson Chandler – 62).

  • Luke Ridnour is averaging 18.5 ppg, on 56.0% shooting, and 5.0 assists in the last two games. Ridnour is the only Wolves player to play in all 56 games (all starts).

  • Derrick Williams is averaging 20.5 points, on 49.2% shooting, and 10.0 rebounds over the last four games. He been the Wolves' leading scorer three times in this stretch and recorded two double-doubles.

  • The Wolves rank 4th in the NBA in FT attempts per game (25.9) and 6th in fewest FT attempts allowed per game (20.9). They've shot 30+ FTs 19 times and allowed less than 20 FT attempts 21 times.

  • Minnesota has used 15 different starting lineups this season. The most any one lineup has played is nine games (Kirilenko, Williams, Pekovic, Rubio, Ridnour).

  • Miami has won its last 14 games, matching the longest win streak in team history. At 43-14, the Heat has the second-best record in the NBA (San Antonio 47-14). Miami has a 6.5-game lead on Indiana for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

  • The Heat rank 1st in the NBA in field goal percentage at 49.6% and 2nd in 3-point field goal percentage at 39.3% -- both currently franchise highs. Miami has allowed the fewest blocked shots in the NBA, with opponents averaging just 3.30 blocks per game against them.

  • LeBron James is averaging 25.8 points and 10.8 assists in his last four games vs. Minnesota. His career average of 27.6 ppg vs. the Wolves is second only to Michael Jordan's 29.2 ppg vs. Minnesota. James has scored 30+ points 22 times this season. He needs three more made three-pointers to reach 1,000 for his career.

  • Dwyane Wade is averaging 29.8 ppg in his last 10 games vs. Minnesota. He is averaging 27.6 points on 61.0% (61-for-100) shooting over the last five games this season.

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