Wolves 122 Heat 121.
Rage against the dying of the light.
That one feels good.
At several points along the way--such as when the Wolves blew a seven point lead in the final three minutes, or any number of possessions when the Wolves couldn't secure a defensive rebound, it looked like this game was going to be a microcosm of the entire season: snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Instead, the Pek-less and Martin-less Wolves refused to give in against (a Wade-less) Heat team that had a lot more to play for. The game whipsawed through two overtimes with big plays, bizarre calls, missed free throws, and unlikely heroes until finally Corey Brewer made one of two free throws to give the Wolves the lead, and Ray Allen missed an off-balance jumper over Kevin Love at the buzzer.
I'm not exactly sure how to go about describing this tilt. There were any number of key moments throughout it's hard to know where to begin.
There were moments in the first half when it appeared that the Heat were going to run away and hide. I said as much in the game thread; it felt like the Heat were going to go on a monster run. They eventually pushed out to a 10 point lead late in the 2nd quarter, and it looked like it was happening. An early important play: the Heat were on a 13-0 run and had the Wolves on the ropes down 10. Kevin Love missed a jumper, and Lebron James pushed in semi-transition. Sensing that he could all but end the game with under two minutes left in the half, he pulled up for a three, but missed. Gorgui Dieng made two free throws at the other end, then blocked a shot that led to a Brewer three point play in transition, and the Wolves closed the half on a 10-0 run of their own to go to the locker room tied at 52.
That gave the Wolves renewed confidence, and they took a lead early in the third quarter that they held through most of the second half. But it's Timberwolves. Up seven with three minutes left following a monster dunk by Ronny Turiaf from a terrific Chase Budinger feed, I doubt any Wolves fans who have been paying attention felt comfortable. Two Chris Bosh free throws and a Bosh three pointer later, and the Heat were right there. They finally tied the game on a Mario Chalmers free throw, and Kevin Love missed a contested three at the buzzer to send it to overtime.
Love had another chance to win it in the first overtime, but again missed a difficult contested jumper with the game tied following another split pair of free throws by Chalmers. The first overtime was brimming with big shots. Love and Budinger made threes, as did Bosh at the other end. Love made a huge 12 foot jump hook to give the Wolves a one point lead with 14 seconds to go which led to Chalmers' free throw and Love's miss.
At a couple of points in the 2nd overtime it looked like the Wolves were finally going to succumb. They went down four early, but refused to give in. A Ricky Rubio driving layup followed by an absolutely monstrous Love step-back three gave the Wolves a two point lead. When an exchange of free throws (James 1-2, Barea 2-2) left the Wolves with a three point lead, things looked pretty good. But Love fell asleep on the ensuing inbounds, and Chris Bosh got open from the top of the key and buried the game tying three. Brewer's free throw came off a sloppy play where he jumped to secure a pass and got a slight shove in the back while he redirected the ball to the rim. After several calls that didn't go the Wolves way, one finally did, and it proved decisive.
So many things to talk about with this one.
Tonight was the Awakening of Chase Budinger. In the midst of two miserable, injury plagued seasons, he finally had a monster game. 24 points on 7-9 from the floor including 5 made threes. Bud was huge tonight not only shooting the ball, but he also had several beautiful passes and played an all-around fantastic game.
Ronny Turiaf was also excellent, active around the basket at both ends, and was the choice over Gorgui Dieng over the last quarter and the overtimes. Dieng himself was incredibly aggressive offensively, perhaps too much so tonight, as he wound up taking 15 shots in 25 minutes, making six. It's good to see his confidence growing, but I understand Adelman's choice as he went with the veteran in the big spot.
The star of the game was perhaps Ricky Rubio, who finished with 13 points and 14 assists, and just made play after play after play. His ability to foster ball-movement makes the entire team go when he's playing well, and there were stretches tonight when he seemed in complete control of what was happening on the floor.
In a season that has had so much disappointment, so many close losses, another missed post-season, tonight was the Wolves refusing to go gently into that goodnight.
I didn't know they had it in them to beat the Heat on the road in a game the Heat actually wanted to win, but they did. Things didn't go perfectly--if they had, the game would have been over in regulation. But they raged against losing tonight. Perhaps it was the last shot of a dying season, but what a shot it was.
With LeBron James running roughshod over the Wolves, and Chris Bosh getting hot late, the Wolves withstood everything the champs threw at them, and would not give in. Let's remember this one during the bad times. Enjoy it.
In Orlando tomorrow. Hopefully they have enough bodies and energy.