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Wolves 125, Heat 122: Wolves Hold Onto Victory

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Wolves hang on in nail-biter win against the Heat.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Miami Heat Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Phew. That was stressful. Not the fun kind of stressful either.

On the road, the Wolves were hoping to come into Miami and start building a winning streak after their last victory against the Thunder. Hassan Whiteside was out for the Heat and although Karl-Anthony Towns was battling the flu, the Wolves should have been able to feast on the interior of Heat’s defense.

Instead, the Heat came out blazing and fired up, running the Wolves off the court in the first quarter that the Heat won 32-23.

The Wolves battled back in the 2nd quarter, winning that period 37-30, making it anyone’s ball game in the 2nd half. The bench unit had a hard time in the first half and Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, and Tyler Johnson were getting shots off with ease.

Bam Adebayo got the start for the Heat as they were without Whiteside. Whenever Towns left Bam to go chase blocks, Adebayo would grab an easy rebound and putback slam. Adebayo finished with 10 offensive rebounds in the game.

In the second half, the teams battled back and forth with a series of runs. The Wolves had their first real lead of the game (up six points) midway through the third quarter, but were unable to pull away at any point.

The fourth quarter is when the game got intense. Dion Waiters put on a show all by himself, scoring 14 points of his 33 total points in the final quarter. For the Wolves, Wiggins was the point man again and had this monster jam late in the fourth to put the Wolves up four:

However, the late game heroics were not to last for long, as the Heat were able to tie the game up via Dion Waiters attacking the basket. The Wolves had a shot to win pull away with the win at the end of the fourth, but the designed play did not seem to work out properly and ended with Towns forcing a difficult three and the game went into overtime.

Thankfully, the Wolves mostly controlled the game in overtime and Jeff Teague had a couple big plays. There were a few moments where disaster looked imminent, particularly after a turnover and subsequent Kelly Olynyk three-pointer, but the Wolves were able to hang onto a win at the end.

This was a solid win for the Wolves. The team looked so flat and uninterested in defense at the outset of the game and they were able to hold strong against a team that looks to outwork their opponents.

However, this game was won via three things, which the Wolves did not necessarily have a ton of control over.

  1. Three-point shooting: This was one of the few games that the Wolves won the three-point battle in. Minnesota finished 11-23 in the game with a few huge threes coming from Towns and Teague. The Heat only made four fewer threes than the Wolves, but took 27 of them, finishing a disastrous 26 percent from behind the arc. That’s a nine-point advantage for the Wolves
  2. Free Throws: Even though there was some, let’s just say interesting, calls throughout the game, the Wolves lived at the free throw line and shot an incredible percentage. Minnesota made 32 of 35 free throws, including Wiggins hitting 7-8, as compared to Miami’s 17-25 from the line. There is a 15-point advantage for the Wolves.
  3. Turnovers: I wouldn’t say the Wolves were super careful with the basketball, and Teague had a few awful entry passes early, but Miami was just sloppy throughout the game. Miami had 24 turnovers, a season high compared to the Wolves 16. Miami actually won the points off turnover battle 31-27, but the Wolves certainly had a lot more possessions to work with as a result of the turnover discrepancy.

So why was Miami so close when the Wolves won so decisively beyond the arc and at the line? Well, the defense still remains a work in progress. Miami shot 52 percent from the field for the game and was above 60 percent for a large portion of the first half. The Wolves are still going to have the worst defensive rating in the league after this one.

It’s hard to point to one culprit here, as so many Wolves players just were not able to make stops. The team was good at hounding the Heat into turnovers, but overall the defense was not great. Miami also had some great ball movement on offense, which again put the Wolves lack of ball movement in a harsh light.

Regardless, the Wolves came away with a win here. Let’s dive into the notes:

  • One of the joys of using the “less reputable” forms of watching basketball that exist on the Internet is that you get to experience the in-arena camera for timeouts, halftime, and shootarounds. Some of this is nonsensical, some of it delightful, and some of it captures the spirit of our Internet age.

Case in point, the description of the “video” that I watched was:

“The Minnesota Timberwolves look to construct upon their win towards the Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder on Friday and start slightly win streak. They’ve that likelihood towards the Miami Warmth on Friday night time.

I believed the Japanese Convention was purported to be the lesser one? Effectively, for the primary time this season, the Minnesota Timberwolves will look to seize a victory towards a foe from the East, as they journey South Seaside to tackle the Miami Warmth”

  • Jeff Teague played his most complete game as a member of the Timberwolves. He finished with 23 points, 11 assists, 5 rebounds, and 6 steals, as well as 3 huge threes. He still had some terrible decisions, but overall brought a lot to the game.
  • Butler was really quiet tonight, with 16 points on 13 shots. He looks like he might still be dealing with his respiratory issues.
  • Speaking of sick players, Towns certainly did not seem 100 percent tonight. He still put up 20 points and had 12 boards, but had a hard time containing Adebayo on the boards. Without Whiteside, many of us expected Towns to feast on the Heat’s lack of an interior defender. Adebayo actually played great defense most of the game, but one would imagine a healthy Towns would have gotten more than 11 shots off.
  • There is not much to say about anyone else. Gibson was quiet, 7 points and 4 rebounds, and a had a tough time switching onto Dion Waiters. Nemanja Bjelica played a pretty good game. The rest of the bench crew had a rough go of it, although Jamal Crawford was a cool 6-6 from the line.

The Wolves move to 4-3 after a tough win here tonight. Let’s hope it continues through the week.