The Heat felt the absence of two key starters, coming up short against the Timberwolves in Louisville.
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On the second night of a back-to-back, the Miami Heat fell away in the second half, losing 101-96 to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Following the previous nights win over the San Antonio Spurs, the Heat rested Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Johnson for this contest.
Like their first preseason encounter with Minnesota, the Heat started well, leading 58-51 at halftime. However with new coach Tom Thibodeau, the Timberwolves outscored the Heat 32-18 in the third period as the defence ramped up a level.
Rookie Rodney McGruder led all Heat in scoring and minutes, notching 15 points on 5-of-15 from the field in 39 minutes of play. McGruder finished with 5-of-9 from downtown, of which he managed to hit his first four without a miss. New addition Keith Benson also impressed off the bench, adding 14 points and seven rebounds whilst Wayne Ellington bounced back from a subpar game with 14 points, including 4-of-9 from three-point range.
The Heat starters had little impact, with just Dion Waiters reaching double figures with 13 points on 4-7 from the field. Newcomer Willie Reed, filling in for Whiteside, also impressed with seven points, 13 rebounds and a block in his 26 minutes of action. Justise Winslow played just seven minutes as the starting small forward, as the Heat were keen not to overwork some of the players for just a preseason game.
Reed stepped in admirably for Whiteside at center, matched up against one of the league’s up and coming stars in the league in Karl-Anthony Town.s Reed’s seven points, 13 rebounds and a block were a great return in his first starting opportunity with his new team.
Waiters led all starters in scoring with 13 points on 4-of-7 from the field, whilst also dishing out four assists and nailing all four free-throws. Starting his second consecutive game, all signs are pointing towards Waiters making this spot his own come opening night.
McGruder certainly received more minutes than he is accustomed to, and he sure made the most of them. He started off on fire, hitting his first four three-pointers and finished with 15 points, three rebounds, three assists and a steal in 39 minutes of action.
Coming off a horror 2-of-12 showing against the Spurs, Ellington didn’t stop firing away. He hit 14 points on 4-of-12 from the field, including 4-of-9 from behind three. As an experienced shooter, Ellington will be well aware of his importance to keep shooting, not only for his benefit but also that of the team.
Benson was another to make the most of extra court time due to the absence of a number of regular. Benson posted 14 points, 7 rebounds and a block in his 22 minutes on the court. These bench performances will be very encouraging for the Heat moving forward.
Despite being the backup point guard, Weber played 30 minutes and contributed eight points, six assists and four steals. This makes it back-to-back games with four steals for the tenacious Weber, whose aggressiveness on both ends of the court will surely be impressing the Heat coaching staff.
Johnson again showed flashed off his versatility in his 27 minutes of action. Despite being known for physicality at 6-foot-9, Johnson hit 2-of-6 from downtown and had four assists, three rebounds and two steals to go with his 12 points. Johnson’s ability to play multiple positions will be very handy come the regular season.
The Heat will enjoy a short break before playing host to the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night.