A final minute of mistakes by the Miami Heat spoiled another banner night for center Hassan Whiteside.
Blowing chance after chance to take the lead against the worst team in the NBA, the Heat lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves 102-101 on Wednesday night at Target Center.
Whiteside finished with 24 points and 20 rebounds, but his turnover with 39 seconds left on an inbounds mixup put into motion a maddening finish for the Heat, which has lost four of its past five games.
“It’s a missed opportunity and we’re not going to get it back,” Chris Bosh said. “We’re about to be out of the seedings.”
The Heat (21-28) is in eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings, and leads the Brooklyn Nets (20-28) by a half-game. Miami next travels to play the San Antonio Spurs on Friday to finish a difficult four-game road trip without injured guard Dwyane Wade.
The Heat led by 10 points with 9:47 left in the game but couldn’t hold the lead with Whiteside on the bench. After resting to begin the final period, the seven-footer entered the game with 7:09 remaining and the Heat clinging to a two-point advantage. A 13-foot jumper by reserve Gorgui Dieng gave the Timberwolves a 94-92 lead with 4:18 to go.
Shooting guard Kevin Martin, who led all scorers with 30 points, put the Timberwolves ahead by one point with 41 seconds left, but Whiteside committed the inbounds turnover moments later on a mix-up with point guard Norris Cole.
Martin then missed a three-pointer, giving the Heat a chance to win the game, but Mario Chalmers missed a running layup with six seconds left and, after an offensive rebound by Luol Deng, Cole missed a three-pointer at the buzzer.
Asked about miscues in the final minute, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra replied, “Where to start?”
Start with that bizarre mix-up between Whiteside and Cole under the Timberwolves’ basket.
“I saw that [Whiteside] was already out,” Cole said. “He gave me the ball and I gave it back to him. I don’t really know what the mix-up was.”
The confusing breakdown: Cole inbounded the ball to Whiteside, who then handed it back to Cole, who was now inbounds. But the point guard then directed Whiteside to go back out of bounds and inbound the ball to him. That led to to the turnover.
The miscue didn’t lead to points for the Timberwolves — Martin missed a three-pointer with 25 seconds left — but it took away a possession and crucial time from the Heat’s attempt to regain the lead. Though Whiteside was credited with the turnover, video replays showed that Cole was probably more to blame.
If there’s one consolation about the gaffe, it allowed Whiteside to grab his 20th rebound on Martin’s missed three-pointer.
With that rebound, the 25-year-old center became the first Heat player since Shaquille O’Neal in 2004 to record at least 20 points and 20 rebounds in a game. Whiteside is only the seventh player in franchise history to record that statistical feat.
The Timberwolves (9-40) might have the worst record in the NBA, but they played well against the Heat in point guard Ricky Rubio’s first home game since badly spraining his ankle earlier in the season. Rubio missed 42 games and Wednesday’s game was the first for the Timberwolves with Rubio, Martin and center Nikola Pekovic in the lineup since Nov. 1.
A steal by Whiteside with 1:10 left set up Bosh’s jump shot to give the Heat a 101-100 lead. The Heat trailed 98-94 with 3:24 left in the game, but a three-pointer by Cole gave Miami a chance at the end.
Cole’s three-pointer cut the Timberwolves’ lead to 98-97 before Minnesota rookie forward Andrew Wiggins scored with 1:54 remaining.
Deng then scored a layup with 1:31 to cut the Timberwolves’ lead back to one point and set up the dramatic finish. Deng finished with 18 points, going 6 of 10 from the field. He also had five rebounds. Bosh had 14 points after scoring 34 points on Tuesday night in Detroit.
“It doesn’t matter who we play,” Bosh said. “They crawl back into the game with no resistance. It’s like we’re not learning anything.”
After a dismal game offensively for the Heat’s guards against the Pistons, Spoelstra challenged his backcourt players to be more aggressive offensively. Chalmers responded with 12 points, going 5 of 11 from the field despite a freak collision with a fan in the first quarter. Chalmers left the game with a shin contusion but returned.
A three-pointer by Shabazz Napier gave the Heat a 64-59 lead. It was Napier’s first field goal in seven quarters of basketball. He finished with six points and seven assists.
Whiteside went 12 of 13 from the field with his only missed shot coming in the third quarter. He has recorded double figures in scoring and rebounding in eight of his past 13 games. His double-double against the Timberwolves came early in the third quarter. He had 22 points and 17 rebounds entering the final period.
The Heat lost despite outrebounding the Timberwolves 47-32.