Jimmy Butler’s 30-point, 10-rebound and eight-assist effort was not enough to secure a win against his former team Friday night.
The Minnesota Timberwolves survived the Miami Heat’s late comeback effort, earning the 119-111 victory at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minn. It marked arguably the Heat’s worst loss this season. The Wolves have won five straight against the Heat, dating back to the 2017-18 season.
Miami falls to an even 28-28 and are 11 games back of the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers (38-17) in the Eastern Conference. The Heat, who began the four-game road trip with winning five of their last six games, have lost three straight.
At the time of publishing, Miami is two games back of the Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks, who are tied for the No. 4 seed. The Heat are also one game back of the New York Knicks (29-27) for the No. 6 seed and just 0.5 game ahead of the Charlotte Hornets (27-28) for the No. 8 seed.
The Timberwolves, who entered Friday dropping four of their last five (including their last two by a combined 55 points), move to 15-42 (and don’t possess the worst record in the league anymore).
Miami shot 48.8 percent from the floor, 41.8 percent from deep and 73.1 percent from the free throw line on the evening.
Butler had 30 points on 9-of-19 shooting and 12-of-15 from the free-throw line. His 10 rebounds marked his 15th double-double on the season. Butler also dished out eight assists, snatched three steals and blocked one shot.
Trevor Ariza had a season-high 21 points — 16 in the first half — on 8-of-14 shooting, including 5-of-7 shooting from 3-point range. He finished second to Butler with seven rebounds. Bam Adebayo tallied 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting.
Goran Dragic, who missed last game due to lower back spasms (though Spoelstra said he wanted to manage the 34-year-old’s load), had 15 points in 23 minutes off the bench. Duncan Robinson added 11 points, hitting three of his eight 3-point attempts. Robinson has netted three or more 3s in 12 consecutive games — knocking down a remarkable 50.5 percent of his attempts from deep in that span.
The Timberwolves shot 51.9 percent from the floor, 41.7 percent from the 3-point line and 69 percent from the free-throw line.
Karl-Anthony Towns, who has missed each of the last two games due to personal reasons, returned Friday. He tallied a team-high 24 points on 8-of-14 shooting, including 4-of-7 from beyond the arc, dishing out five assists.
Ricky Rubio had 17 points on 5-of-10 shooting and 2-of-5 shooting from deep, dishing out four assists. Anthony Edwards had 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting — tying Towns with a team-high with five assists. D’Angelo Russell totaled 11 points on 3-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc, snapping a string of three games of 25-plus points off the bench.
Naz Reid, who has been a capable frontcourt piece in the non-Towns minutes, had 16 points with seven rebounds in 22 minutes off the bench. Juancho Hernangomez tallied 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting. Though it’s oftentimes a deceiving metric, Hernangomez tied Edwards for a team-high plus-19 in the plus-minus category in just 23 minutes.
Jarred Vanderbilt added nine points and grabbed down a team-high 14 rebounds in 22 minutes off the bench. Vanderbilt and Reid — who combined to grab nine of the Wolves’ ten offensive rebounds — imposed their will down the stretch on the offensive glass with their continuous motors and brute physical play.
For the third straight game, Miami’s bench got drastically outplayed. It got outscored 52-25 by Minnesota’s bench, largely fueled by Hernangomez, Reid, Russell and Vanderbilt.
In the last three contests alone, the Heat’s second unit has been outscored by 82 points (yes, you read that number correctly).
Butler’s fast break layup, followed by Adebayo’s two-handed lob finish put the Heat ahead 13-4 with 7:52 remaining in the first quarter. Butler had nine of the team’s first 11 points.
Back-to-back triples from Towns and Edwards cut Miami’s advantage to 17-12. Dragic’s 3-pointer extended it to 34-25 with 1:20 left in the first quarter.
Miami reached 30-plus points in the first quarter for the sixth time in the last seven games. It tallied 37 first quarter points, its most since March 16 — exactly one month ago — against the Cleveland Cavaliers (37 points).
The Heat’s second quarter struggles plagued them for the third consecutive game. Minnesota began with a swift 13-2 run — capped off by Edwards’ layup — to tie it at 39 to prompt a Heat timeout. Reid’s second-chance and-1 conversion put the Wolves ahead 56-52 with 2:10 left in the opening half.
The two foes entered halftime knotted at 61. Miami shot 55.3 percent and 47.1 percent from 3-point range. The Wolves shot 50 percent from the floor and 47.6 percent from deep. Butler and Adebayo had 30 combined first half points on 11-of-17 (64.7 percent) shooting.
Though it’s only a slice of the game, Miami has been a minus-41 (99-58) in its last three second quarters.
Butler’s jump shot put the Heat ahead 73-69 with 7:37 remaining in the third quarter. Minnesota followed suit with a 12-4 run — capped off by back-to-back baskets from Josh Okogie. Dragic’s steal-and-score tied it at 85 with 2:12 left in the quarter.
The Heat finished the final 4:40 of the quarter on a 15-5 run. Dragic, known as “The Dragon” by Heat faithful, knocked down his second 3-pointer of the half as the third quarter buzzer sounded — awarding Miami the 93-88 lead.
Minnesota began the fourth quarter with a 13-4 run and didn’t look back. Seven straight points from Towns put it ahead 106-99. Edwards’ layup gave the Wolves their first double-digit lead of the night at 112-102 with 4:33 left in the contest.
Towns fouled out of the game with just under two minutes to go. Butler, who drew the foul, netted both of his free throws to cut the lead to 113-109. Back-to-back layups from Reid and Vanderbilt made it 117-111, with Miami’s comeback effort falling short.
The Heat return to South Beach and look to knock off the second-place Brooklyn Nets on Sunday at 3:30 EST on ESPN. The Nets are 15-11 away from home while Miami is 15-13. It is also just 10-19 against teams with a .500 or better record, while Brooklyn is an Eastern Conference best 20-8 in such games.