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Heat's balanced attack knocks down Timberwolves

Mar 31, 2007 - 4:13 AM MINNEAPOLIS (Ticker) -- Playing shorthanded, the Miami Heat used a balanced scoring attack and strong defense against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Udonis Haslem led five players in double figures with 19 points and added 14 rebounds as the Heat posted a 92-77 victory over the sinking Timberwolves.

Eddie Jones scored 18 points and James Posey added 16 for Miami (39-33), which played without the injured Dwayne Wade (shoulder), Jason Kapono (ankle) and Gary Payton (groin).

"We knew that this was going to be a tough game," Haslem said. "We knew that they weren't going to just give in. We started good early and got a good push. Most of the games we've struggled, we didn't maintain our energy, but tonight we maintained our intensity throughout the game."

Haslem knocked down 9-of-12 shots and added three assists and the Heat made life miserable for the Timberwolves' shooters. Minnesota shot just 37 percent (31-of-84) from the floor. The bench converted on just 10-of-37 attempts and starting point guard Mike James was scoreless on five shots.

It was a solid performance after a 96-83 loss to Toronto on Wednesday.

"I thought we bounced back with a real good defensive game," Heat coach Pat Riley said. "It was obvious that we were a lot more active (than we have been). We sustained it, they didn't get a lot of layups, which we have been giving up over the last 10 games.

Miami regained a one-half game lead over Washington (38-33) for first place in the Southeast Division. The Wizards lost, 123-118, in overtime to Toronto on Friday.

"It's important, let's leave it at that," said Riley of his team's playoff positioning.

Posey scored six points as the Heat closed the first period on a 14-4 run to take a 25-14 lead. The Timberwolves drew the ire of their fans when they turned over the ball three straight times and surrendered four consecutive layups during the spurt.

"They got a bunch of layups at the beginning of the game. That was just (a lack of) effort, that's all it is," Timberwolves coach Randy Wittman said. "When you turn it over, that happens."

"The layups killed us," Kevin Garnett said. "They had like eight points off layups. You can't give them that. They're too good a team."

Minnesota got as close as 61-57 with eight seconds left in the third, but Jones and Antoine Walker bookended a 12-2 run with 3-pointers as Miami took a 76-61 lead three minutes into the fourth and coasted thereafter.

"We fought our way back but the deficit was so deep we couldn't recover from that," said Garnett. "Every time we'd make a run, they'd make a run. This was just too big of a deficit for a team that is this good."

Garnett posted his league-leading 61st double-double of the season with 22 points and 20 rebounds for Minnesota (30-42), which lost its third straight and fell 4 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Clippers (34-37) for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Clippers play at Sacramento on Friday.

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