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Heat defeat Wolves, grab 6th seed

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Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro both returned from absences.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Miami Heat Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

The lottery-bound Minnesota Timberwolves jumped on the Miami Heat early, racing out to an 11-point lead. That was concerning for Miami, which entered Friday night’s game with the same record as the Boston Celtics.

Fortunately for the Heat, Goran Dragic and Tyler Herro checked into the game.

Herro, who had missed Miami’s previous six games with foot soreness, promptly made four 3-pointers in the first half to wrestle the lead back from Minnesota.

And Dragic did some damage in the post. By halftime, the backup backcourt pair combined for 29 points. That helped Miami withstand a pedestrian, one-point Bam Adebayo performance in the first half.

Adebayo started to get going in the third quarter — he had more opportunities after Karl-Anthony Towns got whistled for his fourth foul. The Heat soon built a double-digit lead. Some frustration boiled over for Minnesota — D’Angelo Russell was ejected with two technicals, and Ricky Rubio also picked up a technical.

But still, the Timberwolves remained in striking distance. Dragic hit back-to-back 3s with 1:28 left to go, putting Miami up 114-101. And on the Heat’s ensuing possession, Herro hit a 3 to make it 117-103. Miami held on to win 121-112. And thanks to the Chicago Bulls win over the Celtics, the Heat moved back into the sixth seed.

The Heat’s 2019 first-round pick showed no signs of rust and went 10-for-13 from the field, including 6-of-8 from downtown. Tonight, Heat fans got a version of Herro many hoped he’d grow into in his second season — decisive with the ball. If Herro is able to bottle up this play, it would give Miami another player to rely upon for offense in the playoffs.

In addition to Herro’s return, Jimmy Butler also came back from a one-game absence due to flu-like symptoms. The five-time All-Star was the sole Heat offense in the first quarter and continued to deliver through the rest of the night. Butler finished with 25 points on 7-of-15 shooting from the field and 11-of-14 from the foul line, eight rebounds, six assists and five steals. He was everywhere for Miami.

Dragic added 23 points on 10-of-18 shooting from the field. The veteran point guard looked good both shooting from 3-point range and getting to the basket — a good sign. It was vital for Herro and Dragic to play well because Duncan Robinson struggled with foul trouble and only made two 3s. Trevor Ariza also shot just 1-for-9 on the night.

Despite an abysmal first half, Adebayo finished with 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field. For some periods in the second quarter, it seemed like Erik Spoelstra gave a longer stint to Dewayne Dedmon because Adebayo was playing so poorly. But Adebayo checked in for Dedmon early in the fourth, signaling that any benching was short-lived.

Now a game ahead of the Celtics, the Heat travel to Boston for two huge games that will all but determine which team avoids the play-in tournament. First game is Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.