The Miami Heat put forth the kind of effort it needed Monday night – and talked about in a team meeting Sunday – to put an end to an early two-game losing skid.
The Minnesota Timberwolves just wouldn’t let them.
Depite a heroic, 33-point effort from Dion Waiters, who scored 21 of those points after the third quarter, the T’Wolves handed the Heat its third consecutive loss in heartbreaking fashion –125-122 in overtime – at AmericanAirlines Arena.
“These are the games right here that we figured out how to win last year,” said Waiters, who after not playing at all in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s loss to the Celtics poured in a 39 minutes of work Monday.
“I think coming out of overtime we were just a little flat and we had to climb our way back,” he continued. “Once we put it together and understand we got to come out with that same sense of urgency. Like I said, it’s hard to win in this league so you can’t give teams like that with a lot of talent opportunities. I think we got to do a better job taking care of the ball.”
Miami turned it over a season-high 24 times and finished 7-of-27 from three-point range.
Still, the Heat (2-4) had a chance to avoid its first three-game losing streak since before it won 13 consecutive games last season during its 30-11 second half turnaround.
The Heat trailed 104-97 after a Jamal Crawford three-pointer with 3:09 to play. That’s when Waiters began to take over. First he drove past Jimmy Butler for a layup and then on Minnesota's ensuing possession he stripped Crawford of the ball and went down the floor for a dunk.
Aside from a pair of Kelly Olynyk free throws, Waiters scored 11 of Miami's final 13 points in regulation including the tying layup on a drive past Butler with 3.6 seconds remaining.
What drove him to take over?
“Just my teammates, just kept telling me keep going, keep going,” said Waiters, who matched his career-high for points for the fourth time in his career. “These are the type of games you want, you need. Unfortunately we didn’t get the win, but I felt we did some great things moving forward. It’s tough. It’s tough to win in this league. When you make a mistake some teams make you pay. Once we take care of the ball we’ll be in a better situation.”
The T’Wolves (4-3) ultimately won the extra period behind point guard Jeff Teague.
Minnesota scored the first six points of overtime and then extended the lead to 119-112 on Teague’s stepback three-pointer with 1:47 remaining. Miami quickly trimmed the lead to 119-117 on a bucket, steal and Olynyk three-pointer with 49.4 seconds to go.
But Minnesota won the game at the free throw line. Waiters ended up missing a late, 28-foot heave at the buzzer. He finished 14-of-28 from the field.
“I wanted to go to the other side. I just tried to get to a spot and get the shot up. It felt good. It actually felt good,” Waiters said.
But the shot clanked off the side of the rim.
“In those type of situations, you want to get to your spot,” Waiters said. “But it’s not the shot we wanted.”
A lot of things went right for the Heat in the first half – especially early on the defensive end.
The Timberwolves missed their first eight shots and the Heat took advantage scoring eight of its first 16 points on the break. Miami led 32-23 after one quarter and stretched the lead to as much as 13 points before the T’Wolves, behind Karl-Anthony Towns, went on a 12-0 run to tie the game. Minnesota took its first lead 59-57 on a pair of Andrew Wiggins free throws with 1:05 left.
Goran Dragic, though, who was a perfect 5-of-5 in the opening quarter and 7-of-8 in the first half for 16 points, buried a three-pointer with 0.3 seconds left to give Miami a 62-60 lead at the intermission.
The Timberwolves, though, were just too much in th esecond half.
Wiggings had 22 points, seven rebounds and an assist and Towns had 20 points, 12 rebounds and a steal.
“They’re a talented team,” Teague said of the Heat. “A lot of talented players that can make big-time plays. They did that down the stretch. We’ve got some guys on this team that can really play. Down the stretch, [Wiggins] was huge, Jimmy, Taj, everybody played big down the stretch.”