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Wolves 111, Heat 109: Dashing Hopes

The Wolves win another close one

NBA: Miami Heat at Minnesota Timberwolves Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

To their credit, the Wolves are not allowing their season to end with a whimper. In a game that meant a ton for the Miami Heat as the battle desperately for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and not a tangible thing to the Wolves, it was the home team that showed the necessary toughness down the stretch to hold off the visitors and emerge with a 111-109 win when Dwyane Wade’s last second three bounced off the rim.

The first half was a microcosm of the Wolves season (decade?) long defensive problems: The Heat shot over 60 percent from the field, made a bunch of threes led by Dion Waiters, and got more or less whatever they wanted going to the rim, led by Wade in his final appearance at Target Center. Wade had 21 first half points on 7-9 from the floor, Goran Dragic had 14, and the Heat put up 69 points.

The Wolves were staying in the game thanks to taking advantage of Heat turnovers and another strong outing from Gorgui Dieng, who had 15 in the first half, along with Andrew Wiggins and Dario Saric who were also in double figures with 10 each. Still, the Wolves trailed by eight, and given the desperation the Heat were playing with and the fact that the Wolves showed no inclination to get any stops, it didn’t look great for our beloved pups at the break.

Things took a real turn in the second half, however, with the Wolves holding the Heat to 40 points over the final two quarters. Dion Waiters got hot, but other than him, the Heat cooled considerably, with some credit due to the Wolves defense. They rotated much better in the second half, contested shots more vigorously, and seemed, strangely, more committed to getting a win than the Heat.

Offensively, Saric continued his excellent play and Tyus Jones came alive. Jones has been much more of a willing shooter in recent games, having good success finishing with a variety of floaters in the paint as the pick and roll ball handler. It’s great to see him getting more comfortable in a bigger role.

Late in the game, the Wolves established a six point lead on several occasions, and despite a steal and finish by Wade to get the Heat within one with 10 seconds left, they were able to hold on for the victory when Wade’s contested (by Josh Okogie) three missed.

The loss drops the Heat to a game behind Brooklyn for the final playoff spot in the East.

Tonight was particularly fun for fans of Dario Saric, who had one of his best games in a Wolves uniform. He finished with 19 points, seven boards and five assists, shot 6-10 from the field and made a couple of threes. He thrived both off his own cuts and finding cutters, things he excels at. It was fun to watch.

I know that a lot of fans are annoyed by these wins, but I’m not. I take some solace in a team that continues to try, that outplayed a team that needed the game a lot more than they did. Tonight was an entertaining, back and forth game, and I’m glad to see the Wolves win.

Let’s hit a few notes:

  • Gorgui Dieng continues to score, with 19 off the bench tonight.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns was plagued both by foul trouble and turnovers (11!). The Heat came hard with double teams on his post catches, and while he made some good passes out, they also forces some poor ones. That in addition to several offensive fouls led to those turnovers.
  • Five steals for Josh Okogie! His defense continues to inspire.
  • Wade finished with 24, more or less matching his career average versus the Wolves (24.5.) It was the last time we’ll see him play at Target Center, so pour one out for one of the best ever to do it.