Heat schools weary Wolves

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 19, 2012 - 6:23 AM

Reigning NBA champion Miami provided some lessons in physical play and pulled away late to handle the shorthanded visitors.

MIAMI -- Timberwolves two-time All-Star Kevin Love spent all summer watching LeBron James at arm's length from Las Vegas to London, and Tuesday night he got another intimate view during a 102-93 loss at Miami that careened from early joy ride to late blowout.

The experience inspired Love to gather a couple of teammates on the bench during the final ticking minutes for a talk.

He and starting frontcourt mates Nikola Pekovic and Andrei Kirilenko agreed that, together and as a team, they need to be stronger and tougher, perhaps more like a guy who has won an NBA title, three MVPs and two Olympic gold medals before his 28th birthday.

"I'm not saying we're soft," Love said afterward. "But we definitely need to be more physical."

The Wolves were strong enough to lap the Heat in rebounds 52-24, and Love outrebounded the Heat in the first half by himself, 14-10. At halftime, the Wolves held a 28-10 bulge on the boards -- "I don't think I've ever seen that number," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said -- and by the end they had outscored Miami 34-5 in second-chance points.

The Heat countered the rebound disparity by overwhelming the visitors in fast-break points (24-8), blocked shots (14-1) and turnovers (just eight to the Wolves' 19).

"We made it up in other areas," Miami's eight-time All-Star Dwyane Wade said.

Wade scored all of his 24 points before he took a seat for the entire fourth quarter in a shooting-guard matchup that might have been Wolves rookie Alexey Shved's real welcome to the NBA, even though he already has spent six weeks and 23 games in the league.

James took over where Wade left off, playing the entire fourth quarter and 42 minutes for the game and coming within three rebounds of a triple-double (22 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds). He also had four blocks.

Love ticked off a list of James' attributes -- "very durable, size and strength" -- after the game. James credits improved fitness in general and bicycling in particular for taking his game to another level. He rode his bike 45 minutes to and from the arena twice for Saturday's game, including a ride home in the dark. "I got lights on my bike, I'm serious," he said. "It's something I like to do."

The Wolves had just three healthy guards because Ricky Rubio isn't ready to play back-to-back games and Brandon Roy, Malcolm Lee, Chase Budinger and Josh Howard are all injured.

So coach Rick Adelman improvised, playing power forward Dante Cunningham at shooting guard on a night when he didn't know until an hour before the opening tip if Pekovic was going to play due to a sore back.

He did play, after getting treatment and testing it in warmups. He matched Love's 11-point, 18-rebound double-double with an 18-point, 12-rebound outing of his own.

But even though Spoelstra called the Wolves a "unique, relentless" rebounding team, Love sounded the call for more.

"I said [forget] the shots, that's going to be there," Love said. "Let's be the aggressor, let's be more physical, and this is everybody.

"We are so much better defensively, if we put teams in the half court, that is going to take us to the next level, especially when we get everybody back at full strength."

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