With three-straight losses (to Houston, Phoenix & Memphis) the Wolves seemed to be headed in a nosedive for the remainder of their games. They bounced back with easy wins over the Lakers and the Hawks, before falling back into bad habits in Brooklyn and vs. the Clippers.
The team we've seen the last two nights can only make you wonder what kind of season it would have been had they played with this kind of passion and heart for all 82 games.
The Wolves used a big third quarter vs. the Grizzlies in their last outing to down a likely West playoff-bound Memphis team 102-88. Tonight the task was even loftier, they were facing the defending champions on their home court where they had only lost six games all year long!
Little did they know they'd have to battle not only LeBron James but also a questionably lopsided officiating session to win the game in double overtime. It's these kinds of games that prove the NBA isn't interested in watching it's defending champions lose to a lowly lottery bound team from the frozen tundra of Minnesota. All the casual fan (a.k.a: bandwagon Heat fan) cares about is watching LeBron pick apart defense with his incredible combination of agility and strength en-route to a third-straight title for South Beach. It's why the ESPN coverage is all about Miami, the Lakers and the teams in New York. If that's the case, why don't we just have a four-team League and save everyone else the time.
The NBA has a long tradition of being 'rigged' and as far as I'm concerned tonight is just another black eye in a long line of bumps and bruises of this abusive relationship. (Perhaps not the best analogy to use while Dante Cunningham sits in the Hennepin County jail on domestic assault charges)
I think LeBron James is the world's best player and I love watching talented casts of teams work their magic on the basketball court, but these kinds of games would be so much more enjoyable if everyone is on a level-playing field with the officials. The only thing I love more than a supersquad team dominating is watching the underdog take it to the defending champions...the NBA officiating makes it damn near impossible.
I wrote the following recap while watching the game, enjoy...
The Wolves are having early success attacking Miami’s interior defense. Gorgui Dieng making the ‘small ball’ Heat pay on the interior. Enjoy seeing Dieng finding early success down low, but can’t help but wish Pek was available tonight to beat up on Chris Bosh (& Andersen).
The Miami defenders can’t stop Love & Dieng in the paint. Miami defenders have fouled Dieng on two start possessions. Dieng accounted for 9 of Minnesota’s first 17 points.
The Timberwolves ended the first quarter on a 7-2 run to erase a 10-point deficit and finish the quarter down by 5, 24-29. Dieng led all scorers with 9, both Love and Chris Bosh added 8 apiece.
The Wolves shot 42% to Miami’s 57% in the first quarter, they also went a terrible 2-for-7 from the line (29%).
After Chase ended the first hitting just 1-for-3 from the line, but nailed a triple to begin the second quarter. A few possessions later the struggling Budinger hit another triple, this one from the corner to give him 7 on the night, in just 5 minutes played.
Following a collision with Chris Andersen under the basket on a drive to the rim, Shabazz Muhammad left the floor and was ruled as questionable to return with a ‘knee injury’.
The Wolves bring Love & Dieng back into the game and the Heat counter with a bigger lineup of Bosh & Andersen after the Wolves had their way with the Miami ‘small ball’ lineup in the first quarter.
The Heat don’t seem to be taking this game too seriously. When you have a closer like LeBron James, that’s a luxury you have.
The Heat put the majority of their starters back on the court and they promptly erased the big run the Wolves second unit went on with a 13-2 run to take a 10-point lead with 2:18 to play in the quarter.
The Wolves countered quickly with a 10-0 run to tie it at 52 after the first 24 minutes.
The Wolves end the first half in a tie despite shooting just 8-for-14 from the free throw line, a putrid 57%. The Heat ended the first half still shooting over 50% from the field (51%) while the Wolves shot just 44%. Minnesota stayed in the game with their relentlessness on the offensive glass with 8 first half offensive rebounds as well as 13 second chance points.
At halftime, Gorgui Dieng was still the game’s leading scorer with 13 points to go along with 3 rebounds, 1 steal and 2 blocks. Chase Budinger added 11 off the bench and Kevin Love chipped in 8 points, 6 reboudns & 1 assist.
The Heat were led by 11 points apiece from both LeBron and Bosh. Lebron also added 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 1 block. Mario Chalmers contributed another 10 points, 4 rebounds & 4 assists.
Wolves struggled to hit their three-pointers to start the second half. They did move the ball very well, just couldn’t knock down the shots. Definitely one of the best games as far as ball movement for Minnesota, I’ve seen this season.
Wolves played some very good basketball to begin the second half. With just over three minutes to play in the third quarter, the Wolves led by their largest margin of the game; 72-63 (9-point lead).
That prompted a 6-0 run on two consecutive and-ones from MVP LeBron James. The Wolves picked it up after that, but a lot of their possessions ended on bad passes that led to transition opportunities for the Heat.
The Timberwolves turned in a solid second-straight third quarter, after they had a lot of success vs. the Grizzlies on Wednesday night at the Target Center.
The Wolves led by two points, 77-75 after three quarters, but LeBron James scored the final 12 points of the quarter for the Miami Heat to give him 25 on the night. The third quarter was the battle of the MVP-candidates (not that Love will actually win MVP…but he’ll get some votes). James had 14 total points in the quarter and Love had 11 to give him 19 on the night.
The Wolves’ defense fell apart early in the fourth thanks to their continuing carelessness taking care of the basketball and leaving three-point shooters wide open behind the arc. Not too smart leaving the NBA’s best three-point shooter ever wide open behind the line (Ray Allen)!
LeBron James left the game a few minutes into the fourth, will likely return in a few minutes to close out the game for the Heat.
The Wolves built their lead early in the game thanks to their interior offense. For whatever reason they’re settling for strictly threes on four-straight possessions mid-way through the final quarter. Ultimately they hit 2-for-4, so it ultimately worked out for Minnesota.
Both LeBron and Love check in for the final 5:30 of the game. Adelman keeping Mbah a Moute into the game to check LeBron James, Corey Brewer did a decent job until that third quarter, we’ll see if LeBron has any better luck. Wolves also running with Turiaf at center to check Bosh and playing good D on the versatile big man.
Turiaf puts Birdman on a poster and the Wolves take a 7-point lead with under three minutes to play.
With 1:37 to play and Minnesota up just 2 points, Norris Cole fouls Ricky Rubio on a three-pointer at the end of the shot clock to give him three shots at the line; hits 2 of 3, Minnesota up 4; 95-91.
A Chalmers and-one makes it a one-point game, 95-94 with 1:02 to play.
LeBron commits a foul underneath on Mbah a Moute and Luc hits both free throws to push it to a three-point lead with 45 seconds to play.
Refs call a terrible blocking foul on Barea after Mario crashed into him in the paint. Mario went 1-for-2 at the line to tie the game at 97 with 3.9 seconds to play. Adelman takes a timeout for a shot at the win.
Love’s three-pointer rattled out at the buzzer and we’re going to overtime at 97-all. The Wolves were led in the fourth quarter by six points from Bud & five from Mbah a Moute. Ray Allen turned it up in the fourth, previously scoreless in the first three quarters, he led the Heat with 8 points.
MIN 2-1 in OT games.
MIA 2-3 in OT games.
Wolves being overtime with Rubio, Budinger, Mbah a Moute, Love & Turiaf—sticking with the players that ended the fourth quarter.
Back-and-forth affair for both team offensively in the extra frame. Neither team backing down.
Chase Budinger hits a fourth triple for his 20th point of the night an gives the Wolves 107-106 with 1:10 to play, Miami lead.
With 29.4 seconds to play, Bosh rebounds a missed three and is fouled underneath. Bosh hits both to give the Heat a 107-108 lead.
Love hits a 13-foot hook shot over the long arms of Chris Bosh to give the Wolves a 109-108 lead with 14.9 seconds to play. Love’s shot meant the 10th lead change of the night in this overtime frame!!
Chalmers gets the call on the foul and goes to the line with 1.9 seconds to play. Chalmers hits 1 of 2 again and ties it (again) at 109. Timeout for the Wolves for another shot at the win…or double-overtime.
Love misses the turnaround at the buzzer to send the game to double overtime.
This officiating is incredibly embarrassing for the NBA. They’ve tried to hand the game to Miami all night long and have made some HORRIBLE calls.
Wolves going with Rubio, Barea, Budinger, Mbah a Moute and Love to start double overtime.
Mario Chalmers getting the benefit of the call on every single possession! This is the absolute worst officiating I’ve seen. An absolute black eye for the NBA. “Let’s make sure the Wolves lose because no casual NBA fan on the Heat bandwagon wants to see some team from the frozen tundra beat the defending champs.” Absolute crap!
Love nails a triple to give the Wolves the two-point lead with under 30 seconds to play following a foul on the rebound by LeBron James (his 5th). Wolves lead 119-117 with 29.7 seconds to play, Miami ball.
LeBron to the line with 16.2 seconds to play, he hits 1 of 2 and the Wolves lead by 1.
Heat foul Barea on the inbound and he hits both to give the Wolves a three-point lead with 13.1 to play.
Chris Bosh hits a three out of the timeout with 10.8 seconds to play to tie it at 121.
Love finds Brewer underneath who is fouled from behind by Norris Cole. With 1.8 seconds to play, Brewer steps to the line for two free throws and hits 1-for-2. The Heat rebound and quickly call the timeout.
Miami ball with 1.4 seconds to play. Somehow they rebounded the ball, came down with it, maintained possession then called a timeout and only 0.4 seconds came off the clock.
Ray Allen misses the contested shot at the buzzer to give the Wolves a one-point win in double overtime to end Miami’s 7-straight wins over the Wolves.
Ultimately Miami realized the Wolves weren't going to fade quietly and dialed up the intensity in the second half. The Wolves were able to weather that storm and some poor officiating for their 37th win of the season.
Kevin Love was spectacular, however Minnesota's Player of the Game has to be Chase Budinger. Air Bud finally found his shot as he finished with 5 triples and 7-of-9 shooting from the field. He scored 24 points (not only a season-high, but also the most he's scored as a Minnesota Timberwolf) as well as 4 rebounds, 4 assists & 2 steals. Ricky Rubio's double-double 13 points, 6 rebounds & 14 assists deserve a mention as well.
Here's the full box score...