The Miami Heat also showed that their defense is stifling enough to erase almost any flaw they have.
The two story lines of the game became clear early on as Kevin Love grabbed rebound after rebound on both ends of the court while the Heat stole the ball and forced the Timberwolves into committing turnovers. These two dynamics helped the game remain close throughout the second half even as Love was able to get both Chris Bosh and Udonis Halsem in foul trouble. At one point Love’s play was frustrating enough to have a technical foul be called on Haslem.
Slowly though, the adjustments Miami has made to address the lax defense which has cost them games before began to pay off in two areas.
One area was that Joel Anthony made his defensive presence known after coming into the game due to Bosh’s foul trouble.
The other area was the play between JJ Barea and the man he inspired the Heat to draft in 2011, Norris Cole.
Barea, who tormented the Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals as a member of the Dallas Mavericks by penetrating the paint, wasn’t able to do so this time with Cole defending him. Cole’s play was stifling enough to frustrate Barea the entire time he was in the game. The best example being that Cole stole the ball from Barea on the last possession for the Timberwolves.
The play of both Anthony and Cole allowed Miami to pull away from Minnesota in the second half.
While the Heat can’t allow the rebounding gap it suffered at the end of this game to become routine and expect to win, it is showing that the defense that won them a title last season is getting back on track.
The championship hangover may have just ended for Miami.