Wolves Pick Up Big Win, Beat Heat In 2OT
What a game.
When the Timberwolves beat the Miami Heat 122-121 in double-overtime last night in Southern Florida, it meant just a little bit more than just a regular game. It should feel that way.
Last night in Miami, the Wolves were playing without two starters (Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin) due to injury, lost Shabazz Muhammad to injury in the first half and were facing the two-time defending NBA champions in their home building in the thick of Miami’s chase for the top spot in the East. They hadn’t beaten Miami in seven tries, and they hadn’t beaten a LeBron James team since Nov. 26, 2005—a span of 15 games.
Yet the Wolves, who are no longer in playoff contention, did not give an inch. They battled all game long—even when they fell behind—and wrestled this game away from the veteran, championship-experienced Heat squad despite three game-ending opportunities.
“[It felt] awesome,” guard Ricky Rubio said. “Like we say, we want to finish the season strong and we showed that today against the best team or one of the best teams in the NBA today, and the atmosphere was perfect to do that.”
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Minnesota did battle a crowd that appeared and sounded like it was ready for the postseason push. The Heat are currently tied with Indiana for that top spot in the East, and every game is important. Much like the Wolves’ 102-88 win over the Grizzlies on Wednesday—Memphis is in the thick of the playoff race trying to solidify one of the final spots in the West—Minnesota is finding itself in games that are very meaningful to this playoff chase. And they’re impacting them.
Last night, we saw a few things that were impressive on the Wolves’ side. For one, Chase Budinger was terrific. He put up 24 points on 7-of-9 shooting off the bench, including 5-of-7 from 3-point range. The Wolves desperately needed some outside shooting with Martin out due to his sore right foot, and Budinger stepped up in stride. It was arguably his best game in two seasons with the Wolves.
Also, center Ronny Turiaf was active and incredibly effective coming off the bench in his second game back from injury. He communicates so well and provides energy on the floor that feeds this Wolves team, and he provided this highlight-reel dunk off a sweet Rubio pass late in the fourth quarter.
Then there was the way the Wolves responded in crunch-time situations. They had a chance to win on last shots at the end of regulation and the first overtime—both on Kevin Love shots that narrowly missed. His 3-point attempt at the end of the fourth hit almost every part of the iron and rimmed out. But the Wolves didn’t panic—they responded. And even when the Heat made their runs in the overtimes, Minnesota found a way to bounce back.
“We gutted one out,” Love said. “They made a lot of good plays. They are a really, really good team, well-coached. This was a fun win tonight, especially in dramatic fashion in the way it happened, too. To be down a couple guys out that are big for our team and to just pull this one out with the guys that was had was fun.”
The Wolves got the attention of the two-time defending champions in the process.
“They played a terrific game,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They really did. Both teams were fighting fatigue and all of that at the end. Rubio and Love made some big plays.”
Minnesota moved to 38-37 on the season as they prepare to face the Magic tonight in Orlando. They’ll need to regroup and recover from playing those extra 10 minutes on the front-end of a back-to-back, but perhaps they’ll be able to benefit from some of the momentum they developed in the victory.
They’re coming off one of their most exciting wins of the season, after all.
“We’re not backing down from them,” coach Rick Adelman said. “We went out and played and attacked them. It was a tough game. It could’ve gone either way. I thought we had it won about two or three times, and we finally got it in the end. It means a lot. It just shows that guys are still competing. They wanted to face this team. To get a win like this on the road against the world champions says a lot. It was just a great win.”