Miami (38-33) at Minnesota (30-41)

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  • Game info: 8:00 pm EDT Fri Mar 30, 2007
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Following a brief stay atop the Southeast Division, the Miami Heat look to bounce back Friday when they visit the struggling Minnesota Timberwolves.

Miami (38-33) lost 96-83 at Toronto on Wednesday and slipped a half-game behind Washington for the division lead because the Wizards beat Philadelphia on the same night.

Even with Dwyane Wade (shoulder) and Jason Kapono (ankle) out due to injuries, the defending champion Heat had moved into first place for the first time all season on Monday by beating Atlanta 106-89, coupled with Washington’s loss to Utah.

Miami, which also fell to sixth in the Eastern Conference standings on Wednesday, can move back on top of the division with a win Friday and if Washington loses at home to Toronto.

“I don’t really look at the standings,” Shaquille O’Neal said. “We just want to win every game we play. We have 10 or 11 games left and we just have to try and win as many games as possible so we can get some type of home-court advantage.”

Miami is 14-21 away from home, including two straight losses, and plays four of its next five on the road. The Heat have lost six in a row at Minnesota, dating to Jan. 11, 2000.

They struggled in the opener of a three-game road trip on Wednesday, falling behind 31-15 after one quarter and getting outrebounded 53-35 by the Raptors.

“We didn’t get off to a good start and a lot of it had to do with how good they are,” said Miami coach Pat Riley, whose team has lost four of six since winning nine straight. “It was a huge game for them and us.”

O’Neal was held to 17 points and six rebounds, two days after having 22 points and 11 boards in a win over Atlanta.

O’Neal scored a season-high 32 points in Miami’s 105-91 home victory over Minnesota on March 9 in the only meeting this season. He is averaging 28.0 points in 38 career games against the Timberwolves.

Minnesota (30-41) continues to slip further behind in the Western Conference playoff race, going 4-10 in March to fall four games back of the Los Angeles Clippers for the eighth spot.

The Timberwolves lost 108-102 at Utah on Wednesday for their second straight loss.

Kevin Garnett had 25 points and eight rebounds, marking the second time in three games he’s failed to grab 10 or more rebounds. Garnett, who averages 22.8 points and 12.7 boards, leads the NBA with 60 double-doubles.

Garnett had 23 points and 11 rebounds against Miami earlier this month, and has posted a double-double in each of his last seven games versus the Heat.

Minnesota, which blew a 25-point second-half lead in a 114-106 loss to Seattle on Tuesday, led by as many as six in the third quarter against Utah but could not hang on.

“We bounced back from a hard situation (Tuesday) night,” Minnesota coach Randy Wittman said. “I thought our guys laid their hearts on the line and played with effort.”

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Friday, Mar 30