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Hassanity Continues, but Wolves Rally Late to Beat Heat

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Hassan Whiteside had a monster game, posting 24 points and 20 rebounds, but the Wolves rallied late to defeat the Heat 102-101. Ricky Rubio made his long-awaited return to Target Center and KMart added 30 points.

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS -- Hassan Whiteside has become a force in Miami after playing his way into Eric Spoelstra's rotation late in December. Since then, he's put together a collection of eye-popping games and Wednesday night he had another stellar performance, posting the first 20-20 game of his career.

Whiteside finished with 24 points, 20 rebounds (nine offensive), three steals and two blocked shots. He also started the night 11-of-11 from the floor -- setting a Heat record for most shots made to start a game -- before missing a jumper with 2:06 left in the third quarter.

But even as Whiteside dominated the glass and scorched the Wolves in the paint, mostly by establishing superb position directly under the rim and finishing tons of uncontested dunks and layups created by offensive rebounds, the Wolves were still able to overcome a 10-point fourth quarter deficit to beat the Heat, 102-101.

"We became more aggressive on defense," Kevin Martin said. "We started getting out and running after we got stops. We started rebounding the ball after our third quarter where we only got four rebounds. That changed the complexion of the game."

Mario Chalmers missed a driving layup and guard Norris Cole came up short on a 25-foot three-pointer at the final buzzer; Miami squandered two excellent chances to pull out a win in the final seconds.

Martin scored 30 points to lead the Wolves, and his jumper with 41 seconds remaining was ultimately the game-winning bucket. Thaddeus Young finished with 16 points and five steals, while Ricky Rubio added eight points and nine assists in his first home game since Nov. 1 (23 minutes). It sure is nice to have Rubio back.

Through the first seven minutes of the game, Rubio collected seven quick assists. He was electrifying in the first few minutes.  Under his supervision, or Rubi-vision as some call it, the Wolves played with great tempo and executed on both ends of the court. But two quick fouls forced him to the bench midway through the first quarter.

"He's a player that makes everyone around him better on both ends of the court," Martin said. "Having a guy like that back in our lineup, you can't even put it into words."

Rubio returned with 9:03 left in the second and minutes later he dished a tremendous no-look bounce pass to Anthony Bennett in transition that ended in a thunderous slam...

"I was just excited to come and watch Ricky play with our guys," coach Flip Saunders said after the game.

Mo Williams filled in nicely when Rubio took a seat. Williams quietly had a double-double in 25 minutes -- 10 points and 10 assists. He also hit a big three-pointer with 7:35 remaining to cut the deficit to three, 88-85. Rubio entered the game 26 seconds later and finished it out for the Wolves, who want to slowly work him back into the mix after missing 42 games. Rubio will likely play around 25 minutes a game over the next four contests before the All-Star break hits.

"He made a difference early and a difference late," Saunders said of Rubio. "With him on the floor we probably shot around 60% and our defense is better. He puts good pressure on the ball and they can't set up their offense quite as much. It's a work in progress with those guys all working together but at times they've looked pretty good together."

NOTES

  • Miami outrebounded the Wolves 47-32, including 15 offensive rebounds to the Wolves three. Andrew Wiggins grabbed the first offensive rebound with 7:09 left in the fourth quarter.
  • Wiggins had a quiet night in almost 37 minutes on the court -- 6 points and 5 rebounds on 2-8 shooting -- and will need to adjust how he plays with a full lineup. The offense wasn't run through him much whatsoever tonight and with Rubio, Martin and Pekovic back in the lineup, he's no longer the focal point of the offense. Saunders commented on the adjustment Wiggins needs to make moving forward: "He has to learn how to play with Ricky," Saunders said. "The ball is in Ricky's hands, so he has to get out, run harder, and learn how to play off the ball. He's worked a lot on playing with the ball, now he has to play off the ball where he can get it and make quick decisions."
  • One reporter asked: "Do you notice a lull when Ricky comes out... there's a real dead period when he comes out...?" Saunders' response: "Yeah, we had one for 46 games. I'm very much aware of what that lull is." It was 42 games, but his point still stands.
  • Heat Center Hassan Whiteside on his inbounds miscue with Norris Cole that resulted in a late turnover with 39 seconds remaining: "I saw that he was already out, he gave me the ball and I gave it back to him. I don't really know what the mix-up was. That play didn't even matter because it was a turnover. They didn't score on it so it didn't matter." Martin missed a three on the next possession, but it certainly mattered. This should definitely be highlighted on Shaqtin' A Fool.

Cole-Whiteside Miscue

  • Saunders on Thad Young's performance tonight, and in the last few weeks: "He gave good energy. I thought he really pushed hard on [Chris] Bosh. They were going to Bosh down the stretch and he's a handful for anybody to handle. He did a nice job on him overall. Thad's had a very good two-and-a-half, three week stretch. He's played very good. He's played better in the time he's played with Ricky."
  • Rubio on getting back in rhythm with his teammates: "It's tough but I feel good and feel happy to be back there and play basketball again. I missed it so much. I want to do everything, but at the same time I've got to take it easy. The ankle is not 100% yet, but I'm getting back in rhythm."
  • On playing with a minutes restriction: "It's hard when you can't play a lot of minutes, when you're feeling good and they have to take you out because they want to save your minutes for the end. It cut a little bit of rhythm but that's not going to be forever, just a couple more games."
  • Gorgui Dieng (27 minutes) and Nikola Pekovic (21 minutes) split the 48 minutes at center and the duo scored 26 points (9-12) with 13 rebounds. Saunders decided to roll with Dieng in the fourth quarter because he was able to slow down Whiteside after three incredible quarters; Hassanity was held to 2 points and 3 rebounds in the fourth.