By JON KRAWCZYNSKI
AP Basketball Writer
MINNEAPOLIS — Dwyane Wade had 32 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, LeBron James shrugged off a sore left knee to score 20 points and grab 10 rebounds, and the Miami Heat earned their franchise-record 15th straight victory with a 97-81 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night.
Chris Bosh added 11 points and nine rebounds, and James played 35 minutes despite being listed as a game-time decision with a twisted left knee.
Derrick Williams had 25 points and 10 rebounds and Ricky Rubio had 14 points, eight assists, six steals and five rebounds for the Timberwolves. J.J. Barea had four points on 1-for-11 shooting and was ejected in the fourth quarter after getting a Flagrant-2 foul for a hit on Heat guard Ray Allen.
Minnesota was down six points with eight minutes to play when Barea was ejected. The Heat then went on a 17-5 run to put away the game.
Officials initially ruled it a Flagrant 1, but changed the call upon reviewing it, eliciting strong protests from Barea and Wolves coach Rick Adelman, who also picked up a technical foul.
The Heat outscored Minnesota 58-32 in the paint, amassing 24 dunks or layups out of 38 total field goals.
The Heat had every reason to sit James down in this one, and the runaway favorite for MVP wouldn’t have been blamed. The Heat were playing the second game of a road back-to-back, coming off a stirring victory over New York and playing an undermanned opponent that had lost 21 of its last 25 games.
Maybe in the past, James would have. But not this year. He’s reached a different level, one that no one has been able to compete with, whether he is completely healthy or not. He knows more is expected of him, and he is delivering every single night.
James tweaked his knee in the third quarter against New York on Sunday when he landed awkwardly while chasing down a lob pass. That didn’t stop him from scoring 12 points and swatting Tyson Chandler in the fourth quarter to lead the Heat to their first win of the season over the Knicks, an important victory for the defending champions to assert themselves in the Eastern Conference.
His knee was examined once the team arrived in Minnesota and no serious damage was found. He tested his knee out in warmups and was considered a game-time decision, and the Timberwolves had a faint glimmer of hope when James was nowhere to be found when the Heat took the floor about 15 minutes before tipoff. But he came jogging out a few minutes later, then continued his recent pregame routine of throwing down monster dunks to get that knee loosened up and ready to roll.
“His leg would probably have to fall off for him to miss a game,” Heat forward Chris Bosh said.
The dunking display kept right on going after the opening tip. Without big Nikola Pekovic (abdominal strain) roaming the paint, the Heat relentlessly attacked the rim. Their first seven field goals came on dunks or layups, as did 15 of their 20 buckets in the first half.
The Wolves made a mini-run, pulling to 76-70 before the Barea-Allen confrontation, and the Heat pulled away after that.
It’s not as if the Heat have been feasting on cupcakes during their record streak. They’ve taken the Clippers, Lakers, Rockets, Thunder, Bulls, Grizzlies and Knicks, almost all of them in convincing fashion.
The message is being delivered. This is their time. This is LeBron’s league.
You want the title? Come and get it.
KNICKS 102, CAVS 97
CLEVELAND — Amare Stoudemire scored 22 points, J.R. Smith added 18 and New York overcame a 22-point deficit without All-Star Carmelo Anthony to beat Cleveland.
Steve Novak made three of New York’s seven 3-pointers in the fourth quarter as the Knicks rallied and shook off a tough home loss on Sunday, when they blew a 16-point lead to Miami.
The Knicks trailed 52-30 in the second quarter of this one when Anthony injured his right knee. He stumbled and fell awkwardly after catching a pass and did not return.
Kyrie Irving scored 22 points in his return after missing Cleveland’s past three games with a hyperextended right knee.
MAGIC 105, HORNETS 102
NEW ORLEANS — Arron Afflalo scored five of his game-high 26 points in the final 38 seconds, and Orlando snapped a three-game skid.
Jameer Nelson, returning from a left knee injury that sidelined him six games, scored 15 points and Tobias Harris also scored 15 for Orlando, which trailed by as many as 17 points in the second half and erased a nine-point deficit during the final 3:15.
Afflalo scored 11 of his points in the fourth quarter, including an 11-foot turnaround over Eric Gordon in the lane that gave Orlando the lead for good at 101-100.
Afflalo hit two free throws soon after to make it 103-100, but found himself back on the free-throw line in a one-point game with 12 seconds left after Anthony Davis’ tip-in made it 103-102.
Afflalo missed his second of two free throws, but Harris got the offensive rebound and hit one of two free throws to make it a three-point game with 10.6 seconds left.
BUCKS 109, JAZZ 108
MILWAUKEE — Monta Ellis scored 34 points, Brandon Jennings added 20 points and 17 assists, and Milwaukee beat Utah in overtime.
J.J. Redick scored 17 for the Bucks, including their first eight in overtime. Milwaukee won its fourth consecutive game after dropping three in a row following the All-Star break.
Larry Sanders chipped in with eight points, 16 rebounds and six blocked shots for Milwaukee.
Derrick Favors tied a career high with 23 points and added 15 rebounds for Utah, which lost for the fourth time in five games. Paul Millsap had 22 points and 14 rebounds, Alec Burks added 19 points and Enes Kanter had 18 points.