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Rebounds a struggle for Heat, despite hot start

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Rebounds a struggle for Heat, despite hot start

MIAMI (AP) Most wins in the Eastern Conference, fewest rebounds in the NBA.

It might not sound like a winning formula, but it's working for Miami.

The Heat (22-8) are on pace for the second-worst rebounding season in franchise history, better than only the 2007-08 campaign where Miami won just 15 games in what was Pat Riley's final season on the sideline as coach. And even though it was Riley who once said ``no rebounds, no rings,'' the Heat are clearly not the type of team that will dominate on the backboards.

Only reigning MVP LeBron James is currently ranked among the NBA's top 30 rebounders in terms of average per game, and the Heat have a lineup that's outsized in nearly every game - sometimes by a significant amount.

``Rebounding is not something that you work on,'' James said. ``It's a knack.''

Countered Heat coach Erik Spoelstra: ``It's interesting how sometimes we have the knack.''

What they're doing is simply defying logic on some nights. The Heat have been outrebounded by margins this season of 15, 17, 19 and 29 - and somehow, they went 4-0 in those games.

Rebounds, schmebounds? Not exactly.

Miami, which plays host to Chicago on Friday night, has been searching for answers pretty much all season.

``It's something that has been a concern for some time now,'' said Heat center Chris Bosh, who isn't exactly a post-up-every-play big man. ``Guys are getting second-chance points on us. Teams are bigger than we are and a lot of time we're rotating, bringing our bigs away from the basket and teams are taking advantage of that, plain and simple. We need to figure out a way to fix it.''

Case in point: Wednesday's win over Dallas.

Over the first 10:52 of that game, the Heat were getting outrebounded by 11 and outscored by 12 - against a Mavericks team that had trailed Miami by as many as 36 points two weeks earlier.

The game changed when Miami starting closing that rebounding gap

In the final 42 minutes of play, Miami outrebounded the Mavericks by 10 boards and outscored them by 22 points, eventually pulling off a 119-109 win in overtime. Shooting guard Ray Allen had five rebounds in the fourth quarter alone, something James pointed to as a key part of Miami's win.

With good reason: The last time Allen had more than five rebounds in a quarter was April 2005.

``If we win the rebounding by two, we'll be in much, much, much better shape,'' Bosh said. ``I don't think that's a secret.''

Of course, sometimes the Heat can get outrebounded more than 2-to-1 and still be just fine.

Minnesota outrebounded Miami 53-24 in a Heat victory, Denver outrebounded the Heat by big margins twice and earlier this week Orlando held a 50-33 edge over the reigning champions.

Still, the Heat averaged 110.5 points in those contests.

``We don't have a dominant rebounder,'' James said. ``Collectively we've got to try to help rebound with one another, but right now we don't have the size and the athleticism to go up there and dominate a rebounding game. We're trying to collectively do it together, when teams get offensive rebounds try not to give them second-chance points - we're getting killed in that, too. It puts a lot of pressure on our offense.''

There were things the Heat did last season that weren't exactly typical, of course.

That list includes the ``positionless'' lineup where a true power forward like Bosh or an undersized power forward like Udonis Haslem would find themselves playing center, or point guard Mario Chalmers would handle the ball far less than James - who's probably closest to a small forward but typically plays power forward and defends everyone from guards to centers.

All the uniqueness paid off for Miami last year, with the franchise's second NBA title.

But even the Heat don't want to consider the odds of being able of successfully defending that title if the rebounding woes continue.

``I don't want to say we're not good at it,'' Haslem said. ``That's a part of this team and as a captain it's hard for me to say that it's something we're not good at or something we're not exceptional at. I think we can be exceptional in all areas. We just have to continue to make the effort. We have guys who can rebound the ball. Who knows why it's not happening the way we want it to.''

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3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

You may think this was an ugly four-game road trip for the Caps, but with a 3-2 win in Buffalo on Monday, Washington managed to earn five out of a possible eight points.

Here is why the Caps beat the Sabres and managed to save the road swing.

A missed high-stick (maybe) from Ovechkin

Ovechkin scored the first goal of the game in the second period as he deflected a high-shot from Christian Djoos down past goalie Chad Johnson. But did the deflection come on a high stick? The play was reviewed and the goal was ultimately upheld. According to the NHL, it was determined that "video review supported the Referee's call on the ice that Alex Ovechkin's stick was at or below the height of the crossbar when he tipped the puck into the Buffalo net."

NBC Sports Washington analyst Alan May broke the play down during the second intermission and made his case for why the NHL actually got the call wrong.

Was that a high stick? I don't know. As compelling an argument as May made, it still looks inconclusive which means the review made the right call. What surprises me is that the referee did not disallow the goal on the initial call.

Whether the review is truly inconclusive or flat out wrong, Washington was fortunate to walk away from this sequence with the goal.

MORE CAPITALS: BIZARRE SEQUENCE LEADS TO CAPS SCORING AND GETTING PENALIZED AT THE SAME TIME

A centimeter of ice

Hockey is a game of inches and it took less than an inch to put Washington up 2-0. When an Evgeny Kuznetsov shot hit off the boards and bounced back to the front of the net, it sparked a scrum next to goalie Chad Johnson. Eventually, John Carlson was able to get a swipe on the puck sending it trickling to the goal line, but Kyle Okposo was there waiting and appeared to kick it out to safety just before it crossed. A review triggered by the Situation Room, however, revealed that the puck had just barely managed to cross the goal line before Okposo got to it.

Here's the view the NHL released after the review:

Philipp Grubauer's third period

After dominating the first 40 minutes of the game and taking a 2-0 lead, Buffalo predictably made a late push in the third period with two goals to pull within one. Washington outshot the Sabres in the first and second periods, but Buffalo reversed that trend in a big way in the third as they outshot the Caps 17-6. Grubauer turned aside 15 of those shots and was impressive after barely being tested in the first two periods.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FROM CAPS-SABRE

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3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

Coming off an ugly 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, a Buffalo Sabres team missing star Jack Eichel was just what the doctor ordered for the Caps to get back on track. Washington dominated the first two periods and then survived a late surge from Buffalo for the 3-2 win.

After battling to a scoreless first, Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson spotted Washington a 2-0 lead in the second. They then held on in the third period as Buffalo began to tilt the ice in their favor, with Evgeny Kuznetsov scoring the empty-netter to put this game out of reach. Evander Kane would pull Buffalo within one, but with only three seconds left it was too little, too late.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Alex Ovechkin: Ovechkin opened up the scoring in the second period as he deflected down an innocent shot from Christian Djoos past Chad Johnson.

Ovechkin also set a physical tone as he battled with defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen all game long. After taking a high elbow from Ristolainen early in the game Ovechkin skated up to Ristolainen prior to the faceoff on his next shift and let him know that it was on. 

2. John Carlson: Carlson had a hand in both of Washington's first two goals. He recorded a secondary assist on Ovechkin's goal as he made a blue line pass to Djoos which Djoos fired on net and Ovechkin deflected. Carlson then managed to hit the puck past the goal line in a scrum next to Johnson. It looked initially like Kyle Okposo had managed to kick out the puck just before it crossed, but Carlson was awarded the goal as a review showed the puck had completely crossed the line.

3. Philipp Grubauer: A Sabres team that ranks last in the NHL in scoring and that was also without its leading scorer did not test Grubauer much in the first two periods. Facing a 2-0 deficit, however, Buffalo made a third period push to try to tie the game, but Grubauer was up to the task as he turned aside 15 of the 17 shots he faced in the final 20 minutes. He finished with 32 total saves on the night.