Heat 103, Timberwolves 101

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 30, 2011
Dwyane Wade wasn't about to let the Minnesota Timberwolves spoil LeBron James' birthday. Wade hit a jumper from the wing, then scored on an inbounds pass from James with 4.6 seconds to play to lift the undefeated Heat to a 103-101 victory over the Wolves on Friday night. Playing on a sore foot, Wade finished with 19 points, while James had 34 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds on his 27th birthday. Ricky Rubio had 12 points, 12 assists and six rebounds, and Kevin Love had 25 points and 12 boards for the Timberwolves, who led 100-99 with 55 seconds to play. But Wade hit a jumper and then lost Rubio on an inbounds play to make the winning bucket, one game after beating the Charlotte Bobcats with a last-second shot. It was a crushing defeat for the upstart Wolves, who had the mighty Heat on the ropes all fourth quarter thanks to Rubio's brilliance. The Spanish rookie fed open teammates for easy buckets and hit a 3-pointer with 2:28 to play that gave them a 98-94 lead. But James scored on a crucial three-point play and Anthony Tolliver missed two key free throws in the final minute to give Wade a chance to steal it. Anthony Randolph had 14 points and Wayne Ellington added 11 off the bench for Minnesota. Norris Cole scored 12 for the Heat. It was a thrilling back-and-forth between a star-studded team that counts a loss in the NBA finals as a failure and the young up-and-comers who had lost 17 straight games. Playing without veteran guard J.J. Barea, who tormented the Heat in the finals with Dallas, because of a strained right hamstring, the Wolves ripped off an 11-0 run in the final period for an 88-83 lead with 7:20 to play. Chris Bosh kept the Heat in it with some sharp shooting, hitting jumper after jumper just over Love's out-stretched hand. James turned 27 on Friday, and he said earlier in the day he always plays with a little extra juice on his birthday and the numbers support that. He entered the game averaging 35.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and 5.0 assists in four previous birthday games. True to form, he scored 15 points in the first quarter, and the Heat flustered the young Wolves into six turnovers and 39 percent shooting. Cole then scored six of the Heat's first eight points in the second quarter for a 39-26 lead, and it looked like Miami was pulling away. But Rubio, Randolph and Ellington spearheaded a 14-0 run to put the Wolves back in front. Criticized for his shooting before coming to the NBA, Rubio hit an open jumper and added a three-point play for a 49-45 lead. Then he threw an alley-oop pass high over the rim that Randolph threw down, sending the packed Target Center crowd into a frenzy. Then James turned the third quarter into a one-man dunk contest, soaring through the air for three straight that put the Heat back in control. He threw down a windmill, a baseline lob from Cole and a final one-handed hammer for a 78-72 lead. NOTES: The Wolves have now sold out both home games, the first time they've sold out two in a row to start a season since 1991-92. It's their first consecutive sellouts since 2003-04, when they went to the Western Conference finals. ... Timberwolves G Malcolm Lee will miss the next six weeks after having surgery on Friday to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. It's the same knee that was bothering Lee in May, but the team said it was a new injury. ... Heat G/F Mike Miller (hernia) said he is getting close to returning.
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