The Timberwolves finished off their trip to Florida on Tuesday night with a loss to the Miami Heat. As mentioned before the team even left Minnesota (i.e. please do not fine us Commissioner!), the Wolves played without Ricky Rubio tonight in order to avoid aggravating his knee and putting the stress of back-to-back games on it.
The Wolves opened up with the same starting five from last night – Ridnour, Shved, Kirilenko, Love, and Pekovic. The Heat opened up with Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, some guy named LeBron James, Udonis Haslem, and Chris Bosh. The Heat had been playing LeBron at the PF spot, but they went big to open the game to better match up against the Pups, or at least that is what I’m telling myself to feel better about the game.
The Wolves played solid basketball in the first quarter. Pekovic and Kirilenko were playing well on both sides of the ball. Unfortunately, Alexey Shved met the wrath of D Wade, who was probably the first opponent this season to make Shved look like a rookie. Going into the first timeout, the Wolves held a 14-12 lead thanks to a Ridnour jumper.
With just under a minute to go in the quarter, AK47 hit a three pointer to give the Wolves a 27-21 lead. Unfortunately, despite two additional trips down the court, the Wolves couldn’t build the lead any further, as Ridnour missed two three pointers to end the 1st with the same 27-21 advantage. Thank goodness for AK47, who led the Wolves in the 1st with 11 points and terrific defense on LeBron.
The 2nd quarter started in a similar back and forth mode with neither team capable of making a large run going into the official timeout and the Wolves holding a 33-29 advantage. It was also nice to see Mike Miller make an appearance on the court. (I loathed every second of the Mike Miller era with the Pups. I’ll stop here.)
After an offensive rebound for the Wolves, Kevin Love drew a loose ball foul on the Haslem, who then drew a technical foul for himself to boot. After hitting a FT and making a layup seconds later, the Wolves held a 41-32 lead. If fans started to feel good about the advantage it must have quickly evaporated as the Heat went on a 9-1 run to cut the lead to a single point before Shved made a jumper to bring the score to 44-41.
After a few rounds of throwing punches, Mario Chalmers hit what felt like could have been the knockout uppercut punch at the buzzer to give the Heat a 52-49 lead going into the locker room. Even though the game was still very close, this felt like something that could deflate the Wolves team and build momentum for the Heat going into the start of the 2nd half.
Here are a few halftime thoughts through my Wolves lens:
- Kevin Love’s shooting percentages will even out over the course of the season. (Keep repeating this to yourselves)
- The Wolves were dominating the paint against the Heat
- Without AK47, I don’t think the Wolves have six wins on the season
The first four-five minutes of the 3rd quarter continued the competitive spirit and balance that was seen in the first half. Despite struggling with his shot in the game, Shved made a few real nice passes to Kirilenko and Pekovic for dunks, giving the Wolves a 63-62 lead. Then, it all came crashing down.
Dwyane Wade somehow convinced the officials that the Wolves were committing fouls on the defensive end and hit two FT’s to give the Heat the lead. In succession after this we saw a Wolves turnover, a Bosh from James layup, another Wolves turnover, and a Wade from James layup. This gave the Heat a 68-63 lead and the Wolves fell apart from here.
The Wolves went cold from the floor and missed a number of short jumpers despite numerous offensive rebounds. This coincided with LeBron coming to life and hitting a few jump shots and suddenly the lead was up to 10 points, 78-68. For the final two minutes of the quarter, there was little to no offense, with both teams only scoring points from the FT line. At the end of three quarters, the Heat held an 80-72 lead.
The Pups opened up the 4th quarter very cold as they were held scoreless (by themselves) for the first 2+ minutes. By this point, the Heat built their lead to 14 points, 86-72. To be perfectly honest, I basically threw in the towel a few minutes later when Adelman did … with about 7 minutes left in the game, Stiemsma and Amundson entered the game for the Wolves and that about did it for me too. This was preceded by a Shane Battier three pointer that increased the Heat lead to 97-78. The only item worth noting from the extensive “gah-bage” time was Derrick Williams’ time on the floor which felt productive, but again, it was during a stretch of game action where the game was already decided.
The final score looks a lot closer than this one felt, with the Wolves falling to the Heat 103-92. The Wolves return home for Thursday night’s game against the other defending conference champion, the OKC Thunder. (Mercy!)
Three Stars of the Game:
- LeBron James
- Dwyane Wade
- Andrei Kirilenko – good defense, and the only starter that didn’t turn the ball over