MINNEAPOLIS - For the Miami Heat, Monday's game was a workmanlike affair -- not pretty, but effective, another link in an impressive chain. For the Minnesota Timberwolves, it was nothing but another in a long line of frustrations and indignities.
Miami's 97-81 victory gave the Heat a franchise-record 15 straight wins, one that came despite 24 turnovers and 5-for-21 shooting on three-pointers. But the Heat, a veteran bunch, used a fourth-quarter altercation between Ray Allen and J.J. Barea to initiate surge that led to a comfortable victory.
Dwyane Wade had 32 points and 10 assists, and LeBron James had 20 points and 10 rebounds playing the night after tweaking his knee in a game in New York. But the game turned on a fourth-quarter call.
The Wolves, down by as many as 14 in the third quarter, had pulled to within three on Alexey Shved's three-pointer early in the fourth quarter. They were still within six when, with 8:09 left, Wolves guard J.J. Barea fouled Allen hard. Allen, upset, charged at Barea before being pulled away by teammates. Barea was called for a flagrant 2 foul and ejected, and Wolves coach Rick Adelman was whistled for a technical for arguing the call.
Allen stepped to the line and hit three free throws, and the Heat was off on a 17-5 run that put the game away.
Of course, how you felt about the call depended on what side you were on.
"It came out of nowhere," Allen said. "I was dribbling down the floor. He chucked me a little bit and knocked the ball away. I got it back and drove and he just leveled me. I thought it was uncalled for."
Said Barea: "He pushed off - part of the game - and I just gave him a bump back. I've been playing in the NBA seven years. I get hit harder than that every night. I don't get up crying."
Allen suggested Barea's post-foul trash talking was out of line. Barea countered by chiding Allen for overreacting. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra called it an appropriate call. "And," he said, "our guys went on a run from there."
Adelman didn't agree. But everyone said it was a turning point.
"The whole game changed at that point," Adelman said. "They got the free throws, the ball out of bounds and the whole game changed. It's hard to understand."
The injury-ravaged Wolves (20-37) were plucky for most of the night, getting 25 points and 10 rebounds from Derrick Williams and 14 points, eight assists and six steals from Ricky Rubio. But, after the call on Barea, the Heat was a focused bunch.
"From that moment on, it seemed like we got it going in the right direction," Allen said.
The result was another road victory. The Heat shot 51.4 percent despite the problems shooting threes, using ball movement to score 58 points in the paint. On defense, Miami held Minnesota to 33-for-88 shooting (37.5 percent).
"We didn't play good basketball, not to our ability," said James. "But we're a veteran club that knows how to pick up the tempo and close the game out."
Notes: To the surprise of nobody, James played Monday, one day after landing awkwardly and twisting his left knee after trying to catch a lob pass in the third quarter of Miami's victory in New York Sunday. "Everything checked out OK this morning," Spoelstra said, referring to a checkup James had Monday morning. "It responded well from the flight and the rest, and we'll monitor him as he goes." Said James: "No issues. It felt pretty good when I woke up this morning. Felt even better after I got a lot of treatment." James' decision to play did not surprise teammate Chris Bosh. "His leg would probably have to fall off or something for him to miss a game," Bosh said. ... The Wolves were once again limited to nine healthy players. Forward Andrei Kirilenko missed his third straight game with a strained left calf and center Nikola Pekovic missed his second straight game with an abdominal strain. An MRI on Pekovic did not reveal significant damage, according to Adelman. But neither player is expected to play this week, prompting Adelman to resort to gallows humor. "Anybody want a 10-hour contract?" he asked the media before the game.