Timberwolves Grab Win Over Miami in Nail-Biter Finish

(photo credit: foxsportsnorth.com)

(photo credit: foxsportsnorth.com)

It seems that things are finally starting to come together for the Minnesota Timberwolves, as three starters who have missed weeks due to injuries are finally back in the lineup. With Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Martin, and [finally] Ricky Rubio all healthy, games have suddenly become a lot more competitive. Wednesday’s home game proved to be a real nail-biter down to the final seconds, but Minnesota came up with the 102-101 victory over Miami. Martin led the Wolves in scoring with an impressive 30 points, and Thaddeus Young added 16 points to the effort.

Martin proved the biggest highlight of the game, shooting 47.8 percent from the field and knocking down the game-winning shot off an assist from Young.

“He’s amazing,” Rubio said. “He’s been doing that for 10-12 years. We all know he’s going to step up when we need it.”

Rubio also had a strong performance in his second game back. The point guard tallied eight points on the evening and also dished out nine assists. Prior to the game, head coach Flip Saunders emphasized that he would keep Rubio in the 21-22 minute range as he transitions back. In such a close game, however, Saunders bent his own rules a bit. He left Rubio in during the end of the game, and Rubio helped control the pace of the game.

“We’re just a different team with him,” Saunders said post-game. “I was just excited to come and watch Ricky play with our guys to see what he can do with some of these guys. We haven’t had a chance to see that a lot this year.”

Mo Williams also returned after missing a few games, and he came off the bench to contribute 10 points and 10 assists.

The Wolves held a lead for much for the first half, but in the third quarter things started to unravel in an all-too-familiar fashion. Miami controlled the ball for much of that quarter, outscoring Minnesota 32-23 and capitalizing off turnovers. Just when it seemed that the game may end up like so many other games this season, Timberwolves fans saw the momentum switch heading into the fourth.

During the final quarter, Minny scored 26 points. Even more significant, though, the Wolves held Miami to just 18 points—including just a single bucket during the deciding seven-minute stretch.

Despite being out-rebounded 47-32 by the Heat, Minnesota made 51 percent of its shots and gutted out the night for a much-needed win. Although the Wolves season is arguably “over” at this point, as far as the postseason is concerned, each victory improves team morale and offers a glimpse into the future of the team if anyone remains healthy.

And if nothing else, the Wolves certainly acted as spoilers Wednesday. The loss dropped Miami’s record to 21-28, and the Heat are in a must-win situation. Forward Chris Bosh, who added 14 points for Miami, said the following after the game:

“Hell yeah, it’s a missed opportunity. We’re not going to get it back. That’s one thing about this league: If you’re in a situation where you can’t really afford to lose any games, things are slipping away from us […] We’re about to be out of the playoff race. I mean, not the race, but as far as the seeding we’re about to be out. And we’re not concentrating. I don’t understand that.”

The Timberwolves improved to 9-40 on the season, and they will remain home to host Memphis Friday evening. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

 

Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Miami Heat, 3/4/13

Photo Credit: REUTERS

Photo Credit: REUTERS

Setting the stage:

The hottest team in the league just so happens to be the best team in the league and the defending NBA champions; and they happen to be on their way to Minneapolis to take on our reeling Wolves.  Monday’s game will be broadcast on NBA TV for the masses to see, as the Heat come into the game with a 14 game winning streak.  The Wolves are the complete antithesis of the Heat right now, having lost 5 in a row and 21 of 25.

The Heat are putting distance between themselves and the rest of the Eastern Conference, building a 7+ game advantage over the rest of the conference over the past few weeks.  They look like the clear favorites to reach (and win) the NBA Finals.  LeBron is playing in another stratosphere this season and has shown no signs of slowing down.

The Heat took down the Wolves 103-92 in Miami on 12/18 and the game never felt as close as the final score would indicate.  The Wolves were nearly at full strength in that encounter and as you are likely well aware, that isn’t the case right now.  It is still to be determined whether or not Kirilenko will be ready to go Monday night, but the remaining Pups that missed Saturday’s game in Portland will all likely miss Monday’s game as well.

Derrick Williams has been one of the few bright spots over the past few weeks for the Timberwolves.  He will be asked to do a little bit of everything and much more in order for the Wolves to even remain competitive against the Heat.  It will also be interesting to see who he matches up with on the defensive end of the floor given the current starting lineup for the Heat.

Player to watch:

LeBron James – I don’t think we need to go very much further than just mentioning his name at this point, do we?  He’s only averaging 27 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists this season, so sit back and enjoy the greatest professional basketball player on the planet Monday night.  If AK47 isn’t ready to go, and even if he is, you might see a very special performance in the first three quarters of play.

Match-up to watch:

Luke Ridnour vs. Dwyane Wade.  I’m getting tired of picking Rubio and Pekovic for this section and who knows who else will be suiting up for the Wolves by the time tip-off comes.  Luke has been shooting the ball better as of late, but has the unenviable task of matching up against Wade on Monday night.  This could get ugly fast.

Predictions:

Even with the Heat playing Sunday against the Knicks and the Wolves having an off day, Minnesota is probably going to be about +1100 in Vegas.  This is likely to be a long night for Wolves fans.  My advice: try to enjoy watching the Heat.

Final score prediction: Twolves 84, Heat 98

Three stars of the game predictions:

  1. LeBron James
  2. Dwyane Wade
  3. Ricky Rubio

Let’s go Wolves!