Miami turns up heat with second-half 'D'
Published: Monday, January 2, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 2, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
Shaquille O'Neal couldn't specifically say why the Miami Heat changed their defensive ways. He wasn't being coy, either.
"If I said what I heard, it'd all be whistles," O'Neal said, referring to coach Pat Riley's halftime remarks. "It'd all be bleeps."
Whatever Riley said at halftime certainly worked. The Heat held Minnesota to 23.5 percent shooting over the final two quarters and beat the slumping Timberwolves 97-70 on Sunday night.
Dwyane Wade scored 19 points, O'Neal had 16 and Alonzo Mourning had 13 points and 10 rebounds for Miami, which allowed a season low in points, set a season high for margin of victory and held the Timberwolves to their lowest total this year.
"We had a decent second quarter and the third quarter was probably the best defense, the most intense and correct defense that we have played probably this year," said Riley, whose team outscored Minnesota 56-26 in the second half. "The mentality was entirely different. I thought that just sort of propelled us."
James Posey had 11 points and Gary Payton added 10 for the Heat (19-13), who moved a season-high six games over .500.
Wally Szczerbiak scored 19 points, Rashad McCants added 13 and Kevin Garnett matched a season low with 11 for Minnesota (14-14), which is 2-8 in its last 10 games but remains atop the Midwest Division.
"We're a big question mark," Garnett said. "We have no real identity at this point. We show glimpses of being very, very good defensively. ... But I don't think you can stamp us as a defensive team or stamp us as a team with an identity right now."
Miami outscored Minnesota 25-6 in the opening 7:30 of the third quarter, turning a three-point halftime deficit into a 66-50 lead.
Wade had nine points in the run - eclipsing the six he managed in the entire first half - and O'Neal added six, including the first two baskets of the second half.
"The second half, obviously, was like night and day," Riley said.
The Heat hit 10 of their first 15 shots in the third quarter while forcing the Timberwolves, who dropped their fourth straight road game, into missing eight of their first 10 tries. Miami outscored Minnesota 32-15 in the third, matching the Heat's largest one-quarter margin of the season.
Minnesota was 9-for-13 in the first 7:13 of the game; the Timberwolves were 9-for-40 over the next 27 minutes.
"We hit a wall," Timberwolves coach Dwane Casey said. "We hit a freight train in the third quarter. Offensively we couldn't execute, we couldn't shoot and we couldn't score. ... They turned the heat up and we didn't respond."
Miami missed eight straight shots midway through the opening half, and trailed 33-24 after Michael Olowokandi's dunk with 6:02 left. The Heat got within 44-41 at halftime, getting a boost by Jason Williams and Posey combining to connect three times from 3-point range in the final 2:58.
Szczerbiak, who averaged 24.9 points in December, had 12 points in the first half. He missed eight of his first 10 shots, then connected on his final three of the half - including a 3-pointer with 1:19 remaining that pushed Minnesota's lead back to six and negated a 3-pointer that Williams hit 35 seconds earlier.
But Miami's run to close the half was merely a harbinger of what awaited Minnesota after halftime, when the Heat took control with the big third-quarter burst.
"We're building," Posey said. "Like I said, we're sure we can get it done. We just have to have the mindset to be consistent with it."
Before the game, the Heat announced Riley signed a contract extension. The team didn't announce terms of the deal, including length and if it addressed Riley's role as coach or president - or both. ... Minnesota, which is next-to-last in the league in free throws attempted, didn't shoot any in the opening 13:12. ... Udonis Haslem hit two jump shots for Miami in the first 2:57, and the Heat didn't score again from the outside for the next 17:21, until another jumper by Haslem, the team's starting power forward. ... Olowokandi had missed the previous three games with right elbow bursitis. ... Minnesota is 0-11 when being outshot from the field. ... Szczerbiak's streak of 10 straight 20-point games ended. ... Miami opens a seven-game road trip in Oklahoma City on Wednesday.
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