Threes were raining. Luke Ridnour was sprinting up and down the floor, diving into passing lanes, driving and dishing, hitting pull up jumpers. Martell Webster was sticking j’s and skying for boards. Led by Webster and Anthony Tolliver, the Wolves were playing the kind of active, plugged-in defense that could actually make a team competitive in the NBA. Wes Johnson did his best to reanimate Corey Brewer, nearly jumping over James Jones for an and-one, turning the ball over with an awkward non-shot and then stealing it right back before feeding Kevin Love for a breakaway dunk. There was a wild, heavy energy in the crowd feeding off of chaotic moments like this–almost panicked exhortations for the Wolves to defend, lusty boos for LeBron, and finally a cathartic surge as Ridnour finally put the Wolves ahead with a smooth, uncontested three. The fact that this all happened in the second quarter shouldn’t make it any less inspiring.
Nor should the fact that the aforementioned had almost nothing to do with the game’s final outcome. In contrast to the second quarter’s wild energy, the decisive first six and a half minutes of the third were brutally commonplace. It’s not that there was no intensity to the Heat’s rather stunning 25-1 run–on the contrary, the efficient force of it all, seeing the entirety of the Heat’s victory condensed into a seven minute window, kind of took a person’s breath away. But the ease and speed with which the Heat turned Wolves’ turnovers and misses into Dwyane Wade breakaway dunks made them (the dunks) seem almost inevitable, even anticlimactic–if plays of such grace and athleticism could ever be called anticlimactic.
It all started with one of the Wolves most baffling, and therefore most definitive, recurring problems: the sudden, disastrous inability to hit really easy shots. First, Michael Beasley missed a three-foot runner; Nikola Pekovic then missed the short putback off the front rim. The next time down the floor, Love missed a five-footer; then he missed a layup. By this point, Wade had begun his lonely assault on the opposite basket. The emboldened Heat increased the intensity of their ballside pressure; the Wolves, as they do, found it increasingly difficult to run their offense without turning the ball over or taking a contested jumper. Anthony Randolph looked purely amateur in his attempts to guard Chris Bosh; the Heat’s offense started to hum. “It was,” said Kevin Love, “bullshit.”