Miami won a franchise record 15th consecutive game Monday night at Target Center by beating the Timberwolves 97-81 in a decision about as lopsided as you’d expect between the new and improved defending champs and an opponent that has won only three times since the Heat last lost.
That doesn’t mean the Heat’s only visit to town this season lacked theatrics.
There was plenty of drama, however brief, during a contentious fourth quarter when the Wolves pulled within three points only to let their emotion unravel.
That’s when J.J. Barea got ejected, coach Rick Adelman stomped his feet at the referees and got a technical foul himself and the Heat pulled away with a 17-5 flourish to win yet again, just like it has done with LeBron James (20 points, 10 rebounds) and Dwyane Wade (32 points, 10 assists) leading the way every game since losing Feb. 1 at Indiana.
“We’re a veteran ballclub,” James said. “We know how to pick up the tempo and close the game out.”
The Wolves trailed 76-70 with a little more than eight minutes remaining when Heat guard Ray Allen and Barea engaged in an exchange of bumps.
Allen extended an arm into Barea as he drove to the basket and Barea staggered backward, seeking an offensive-foul call he did not get. So he came back and flung his body into Allen, sending Allen to the floor and igniting a skirmish that ended with the officiating crew reviewing the play before they ruled it a flagrant foul type 2 that brings about automatic ejection.
Afterward, Barea basically called Allen a baby — even though lip-reading watchers at home well know he called him something else — for reacting so strongly.
“I’ve been playing in the NBA seven years,” Barea said. “I get hit harder than that every night. I don’t get up crying, I don’t want to fight. Bynum almost knocked me out for the rest of my life. I didn’t get up crying. It was just a little bump, it’s part of the game. Don’t be like that.”
Barea referred to a hit he took from then-Los Angeles Lakers 7-footer Andrew Bynum in the 2011 playoffs, when Bynum blatantly elbowed/forearmed him in the chest as Barea rose for a layup.
Barea said he expects the NBA will downgrade the call.
Allen called Barea’s hit “uncalled for.”
“There’s no place for that in this game,” Allen said. “That’s not the type of player I am. I’ve never been a trash talker. I don’t really need to resort to those type measures. To continue to go on like that, you’re not scaring me, you’re not going to force me to back down from you.”
Allen made the two free throws awarded after Barea’s flagrant foul, then got another when Adelman was whistled for protesting the officials’ decision.
“I just have one question to ask the league,” Adelman said afterward. “Why is that a flagrant 2 tonight and the other night [Sunday against Golden State] Jarrett Jack hit [Greg] Stiemsma in the stomach with a forearm and that was a flagrant 1? I would just like to know the difference. That changed the whole game tonight.”
The three free throws gave Miami a 79-70 lead that Alexey Shved appeared to answer with a three-point shot, before a foul was whistled against him instead for kicking his leg out on the shot.
That caused a Target Center audience announced at 18,391 to holler even louder and before they were done screaming at the officials, the Heat had gone on a 10-1 run that all but ensured victory.