Heat-Timberwolves Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 03, 2013
The Miami Heat are on the cusp of the longest winning streak in franchise history, and judging by their upcoming schedule, it's not about to end just yet. LeBron James' track record at the Target Center may be another reason the run continues. James looks to extend his road dominance against the last-place Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night as the Heat go for a team-record 15th straight win. Miami (43-14) continues to pull away atop the Eastern Conference, holding sizable advantages on fellow division leaders Indiana and New York. The Heat may be sending a message to the entire league during their surge, averaging 107.7 points and shooting 51.6 percent while reeling off 14 wins in a row to match the club mark set from Dec. 6, 2004-Jan. 1, 2005. The run includes wins over the Pacific Division-leading Los Angeles Clippers and reigning West champion Oklahoma City. Miami overcame a 16-point deficit to beat the Knicks 99-93 on Sunday after losing the previous two meetings, each by 20 points. The next few games don't seem to be as challenging. After visiting Minnesota (20-36), Miami hosts Orlando and Philadelphia before facing the Pacers next Sunday. The Heat have averaged 108.6 points while winning five straight over the Timberwolves, including three visits to Minneapolis. They beat Minnesota 103-92 at home on Dec. 18. James seems to enjoy playing at the Target Center, averaging 32.6 points on 54.8 percent shooting while winning his last seven games there - two with Miami. Overall, he has led his teams to 13 wins in a row over Minnesota. Among the league leaders with 27.1 points per game, James scored 29 with 11 rebounds, seven assists and three steals while shaking off a knee injury to rally Miami against the Knicks for a sixth straight road win. "His motor is limitless. I don't want to take that for granted. I don't just want to assume that he can play 40-plus minutes, but he had to do it on both ends," coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Couldn't get him out in the fourth quarter and if I would have tried, he probably would have strangled me. "He was strong and was at his strongest after 40 minutes of basketball." James was 12 of 23 from the field, making at least half his shots for the 21st time in his last 23 games. Dwyane Wade is making his own impact on the Heat's winning streak, averaging 27.6 points on 61.0 percent shooting over the past five games. The All-Star guard has managed 29.4 points per game over seven career contests at Minnesota. The Timberwolves have dropped 21 of 25 and five straight following Saturday's 109-94 defeat at Portland, and injuries continue to pile up. Nikola Pekovic, averaging 15.9 points and 8.8 rebounds, missed the most recent game with an abdominal strain, while Kevin Love and Andrei Kirilenko are among several others still sitting out. "It's hard when you're missing players, especially scorers like Kevin, Pek and Kirilenko," said Ricky Rubio, who is averaging 11.5 points and 10.8 assists over the past four games but shooting 30.2 percent in that stretch. "It's something we have to face every night - play the players we have and fight until the end." Rubio missed the December meeting with the Heat. He had 12 points and 12 assists in his only previous game against Miami, which the Heat won 103-101 in Minnesota last season on a late alley-oop layup from James to Wade.
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