Heat step up defense
MIAMI — Shaquille O'Neal couldn't specifically say why the Miami Heat changed their defensive ways. He wasn't being coy, either.
"If I said what I heard, it'd all be whistles," O'Neal said, referring to coach Pat Riley's halftime remarks. "It'd all be bleeps."
Whatever Riley said at halftime certainly worked. The Heat held Minnesota to 23.5 percent shooting over the final two quarters and beat the slumping Timberwolves, 97-70, yesterday.
Dwyane Wade scored 19 points, O'Neal had 16 and Alonzo Mourning had 13 points and 10 rebounds for Miami, which allowed a season low in points, set a season high for margin of victory and held the Timberwolves to their lowest total this year.
"We had a decent second quarter and the third quarter was probably the best defense, the most intense and correct defense that we have played probably this year," said Riley, whose team outscored Minnesota 56-26 in the second half.
James Posey had 11 points and Gary Payton added 10 for the Heat (19-13), who moved a season-high six games over .500.
Wally Szczerbiak scored 19 points, Rashad McCants added 13 and Kevin Garnett matched a season low with 11 for Minnesota (14-14), which is 2-8 in its last 10 games but remains atop the Northwest Division.
"We're a big question mark," Garnett said. "We have no real identity at this point. We show glimpses of being very, very good defensively. ... But I don't think you can stamp us as a defensive team or stamp us as a team with an identity right now."
Miami outscored Minnesota 25-6 in the opening 7:30 of the third quarter, turning a three-point halftime deficit into a 66-50 lead.
CLIPPERS 100, TRAIL BLAZERS 94
PORTLAND, Ore. — Elton Brand had 20 points and 11 rebounds and Los Angeles beat Portland, snapping a losing streak at the Rose Garden that dated to 1999.
The Clippers led by as many as 16 points in the first half, then withstood a Portland rally that cut the margin to 59-58 early in the second half.
The Clippers had lost 12 straight in Portland since an 89-83 win April 11, 1999, and 26 of 29 since the start of the 1991-92 season. After getting off to a 10-5 start this November, the Clippers went 6-7 in December.
JAZZ 98, LAKERS 94
LOS ANGELES — Andrei Kirilenko scored 23 points, Keith McLeod scored four of his 15 points in the final 78 seconds and Utah took full advantage of Kobe Bryant's suspension in a victory over Los Angeles.
Bryant was suspended for two games without pay by the NBA after committing a flagrant foul against Mike Miller during Wednesday's loss to Memphis. Bryant elbowed Miller in the throat as payback for an earlier foul by Miller. Bryant won't accompany the team to Salt Lake City for the second half of the home-and-home set with the Jazz, but will return to the lineup Friday night.