The Minnesota Timberwolves could have one of the best young trios in the NBA down the road. But for now, they’re still doing a lot of learning.
Dwyane Wade and the Heat were happy to hand out the latest lesson Thursday night. Wade matched a season-high with 25 points, Goran Dragic added 18 and the Heat cruised to a 96-84 win at the Target Center.
The Heat held Minnesota to a season-low 35.3 percent shooting from the field and generated 16 fastbreak points and 48 points in the paint. Miami’s starters outscored Minnesota’s 81-29.
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"It shows that our guys understand the commitment that's necessary, multiple efforts and physicality," coach Erik Spoelstra said of the defensive effort.
"This team is very athletic. They have a lot of youth, are attacking every single possession. You're on your heels or you're standing your ground. While we didn't have an absolutely smooth offensive game, our guys did it on the defensive side to at least carry us over to some fast break points and some rhythm going down on the other end."
Spoelstra said he was happy with the way Dragic and Wade played together. He was happy how they didn't take turns attacking on offense, but rather did so together.
"D-Wade played an unbelievable game," Dragic said. "It's easier now. Now we're getting to the spots. Before I think some our problem was if I was penetrating or D-Wade, we didn't have the spacing. It was crowded to make a play or pass out. Now everybody is in the right spots and it's easier."
Thursday's performance marked the fifth game in a row Wade has scored at least 20 points. He scored 20 points to start a season in six straight games only three other times in his career, the last being in 2009, when he opened the season with 10 consecutive games of 20 or more.
"He’s a scorer – he can do that," said Chris Bosh, , who had 16 points and 12 rebounds, marking his 69th Heat career double-double and tying P.J. Brown for 10th on the Heat’s all-time double-doubles list
“[Wade’s] been doing that his whole career. We’re just encouraging him to be aggressive every game. He’s making plays for us. He’s assisting, getting us into second and third situation. He’s getting into the post. I mean, he’s just playing very well right now. When he’s going nobody can stop him.”
Hassan Whiteside, who had 24 points and 20 rebounds here last year, finished with 12 points and nine rebounds in 30 minutes. Luol Deng added 10 points.
The starters scored all but 15 of the Heat’s points and staked the team to a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter before Spoelstra emptied his bench with 2:21 to play.
Minnesota (2-2) has two of the brightest young stars in the NBA in last year’s rookie of the year Andrew Wiggins and No. 1 overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns. But both had bad shooting nights against the Heat. Wiggins finished 5-of-18 for 12 points and Towns had just four rebounds and six points on 3-of-13 shooting.
Minnesota coach coach Sam Mitchell said pregame while the T’Wolves are trying to win games, they’re also trying to grow up and gain valuable experience for their young stars.
Wade taught Wiggins and some other young T’Wolves some lessons throughout, drawing fouls and beating them to the basket with some vintage moves.
The Heat, who play Friday night in Indiana, went into the half with a sizeable 49-39 lead thanks in large part to the 13-year veteran, who went on a personal 7-0 run over the final 46.4 seconds.
After hitting a 17-foot jumper over Wiggins, Wade went up and under for a reverse layup. Then on the other side of the floor, Wade stole the ball from Ricky Rubio with about a second left and heaved a 48-foot foot shot from behind midcourt. It swished. Wade blew into his hand and held three fingers up to celebrate his shot.
“That was cool,” Wade said. “We haven’t had too many of those.”
▪ Heat backup point guard Mario Chalmers, who accompanied Gerald Green to the hospital on Wednesday after paramedics and police were called to their Miami condo building, was inactive Thursday night. Chalmers said he had swelling in his right knee, the same knee he had arthroscopic surgery on in the summer, and called the night off “precautionary.”
▪ With Green and Chalmers out, second-round pick Josh Richardson saw his first action of the regular season and played four scoreless minutes off the bench.
▪ With it still unclear how long Green — the Heat’s best scoring option off the bench — will be out out, Spoelstra said he doesn’t want anybody on his second unit to go “out of their personality” to fill Green’s shoes.
"One of the best things that second group has been doing is defending and playing with great toughness and energy. That has to continue to be the mindset," Spoelstra said. "We'll probably see a little bit more of what we saw the other night. We have depth for a reason. Things happen during NBA seasons. We feel we have a lot of depth at those wing positions. So it's next man up.”
Friday: Heat at Pacers
When/where: 8 p.m., Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis.
TV/radio: SUN, ESPN; WAXY 790, WAQI 710 (Spanish).
Series: Pacers lead 58-41.
Scouting report: The Pacers, who won three of the four meetings last season against Miami, have won seven in a row against the Heat in Indiana and are 41-9 all-time against Miami at home. Starting small forward C.J. Miles (right ankle) and starting center Ian Mahimi (back) did not play in Wednesday's 100-98 win over the Celtics. The Heat is without guard Gerald Green (illness) on this trip.