MIAMI (AP) – Sitting atop the Southeast Division and winning three of four with improved defensive play doesn’t seem to be good enough for the Miami Heat.
Extending that stretch with another victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves may begin changing their mood.
The Heat attempt to build on perhaps their best defensive effort of the season Tuesday night as they try to beat the Timberwolves for the fifth time in a row.
Miami (15-6) has won three of four while limiting opponents to an average of 87.8 points after giving up 103.3 over the previous six.
The Heat’s latest defensive performance may have been their best of the season as they beat Washington 102-72 on Saturday. They allowed a season low in points while matching their mark for lowest shooting percentage allowed at 37.5.
According to Chris Bosh, efforts like Saturday’s won’t mean anything if they can’t build on them.
“We’re at the point where we have to really start getting some carryover into other games,” Bosh said. “Just being consistent on defense. I’m not worried about offense. Offense is going to take care of itself, especially when we start getting more stops.”
The Heat have had few issues offensively, leading the Eastern Conference with 103.1 points per game. That may only increase against the Timberwolves (12-10) since Miami has won four in a row in the series while averaging 110.0 points on 52.9 percent shooting.
LeBron James came two rebounds shy of a triple-double in a 103-101 road win in the most recent matchup Dec. 30. He finished with 34 points and 10 assists, including one on Dwyane Wade’s game-winning alley-oop assist with 4.6 seconds left.
Wade finished with 19 points, but he’s averaging 30.4 over his last nine with the Timberwolves.
Minnesota is trying to bounce back from Monday’s 102-93 loss at Orlando, which snapped its four-game winning streak. The Timberwolves shot 31.9 percent in the final 24 minutes two days after shooting 40.0 percent in the second half of a 114-106 overtime win against Dallas.
“What happened in the second half is exactly what has been happening the last few games,” said center Nikola Pekovic, who is averaging 23.3 points and 9.3 boards in his last four games. “We have a good first half and then lose our concentration.”
Kevin Love had 23 points and 15 boards after missing Saturday’s game with the flu, and he’ll hope a 10-of-20 shooting night spells the end of a terrible stretch from the floor. Love had shot 30.0 percent over his previous seven games.
Love’s poor shooting stretch means little to Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who’s concerned with the energy Love brings.
“You can have probably an outstanding game matching his effort and blocking him out, and he’ll still get 14 rebounds and end up with four or five offensive rebounds, tips and extra possessions,” Spoelstra said. “He’s unique. He’s an anomaly at that position. There’s no way to define how he does it. He’s able to find a way and it’s remarkable.”
It seems Miami won’t have to deal with Ricky Rubio, who isn’t expected to play in the second half of a back-to-back as he takes it slow in his early days back from a torn ACL. The point guard has eight points and 13 assists in 34 total minutes off the bench in two games since his return.
Rubio had 12 points and 12 assists in last season’s loss to Miami.
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