Timberwolves claw out thriller at Miami
MIAMI — Making one free throw at the end of regulation wasn’t enough for the Miami Heat, nor was making just one again at the end of the first overtime.
In the second extra session, one made all the difference for Minnesota.
Corey Brewer hit one of two free throws with 1.8 seconds left after getting a call on an awkward-looking play, and that was enough to help the Timberwolves escape a three-hour thriller with a 122-121 victory over the Heat on Friday night.
"Great call," Brewer said. "He pushed my back."
Kevin Love scored 28 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for Minnesota, which got 24 from Chase Budinger, 15 from Gorgui Dieng and 13 apiece from JJ Barea and Ricky Rubio, who also added 14 assists. Referee Ken Mauer called the last foul on Miami’s Norris Cole, who was guarding Brewer near the basket as a pass was coming his way.
"You just want to see the players decide it at the end," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said calmly after the game. "I didn’t get a good look at the replay. … Still, we had many more opportunities to close that game out."
Ray Allen missed a wild jumper as time expired for Miami, which blew a chance to move two games clear of Indiana in the loss column atop the Eastern Conference standings.
"We gutted one out," Love said. "This was a fun win."
LeBron James scored 34 points for the Heat, who got a season-high 24 from Mario Chalmers and 24 more from Chris Bosh, including a tying 3-pointer with 10.8 seconds left in the second overtime.
James said he wanted the last shot. It’s the second straight end-of-game play where Miami didn’t go to James when trailing.
"It’s a little frustrating," James said, wearing a Pharrell Williams-esque mountain hat at his locker after the game. "I’m a little over it right now, but right after the game I was a little frustrated."
Miami went 24 for 30 from the line, but three of those six misses proved particularly costly. James missed one of two free throws with 16.2 seconds to go, and Chalmers missed the first of two on his trips to the line in the final seconds of both regulation and the first overtime.
"We had our chances," Spoelstra said. "Either a key stop, one less turnover, a free throw here or there, we had our opportunities. They made one last play."
Said Chalmers, who was 8 for 10 from the line: "I missed the two most important ones."
The Heat (52-23, .693) remained percentage points ahead of Indiana (53-24, .688), which lost earlier Friday night at Toronto, 102-94.
Regulation and the first overtime ended in virtually the same fashion. With Minnesota up by one and Miami in desperation mode, Chalmers would make the second of two free throws — with 3.9 seconds left in the fourth, then with 1.9 seconds left in the first extra session — to tie the game, followed by the Heat watching a potential winning jumper by Love bounce off the rim.
But Love hit a clutch 3-pointer in the second OT, helping swing the tide one last time.
"He’s one of a kind," Rubio said. "We try to look for him all the time. He made tough shots. He gave us the game."
There were nine lead changes in the entirety of regulation. There were 10 in the first OT alone.
Budinger’s fifth 3-pointer of the night put Minnesota up 107-106 late in the first extra period. Bosh fought for an offensive rebound on the next Miami possession, wound up getting fouled and coolly making a pair of free throws to give the Heat a one-point edge.
Minnesota called its next play for Love, who backed Bosh down and connected on a jump hook to reclaim that one-point lead. But Chalmers wound up drawing another foul, hit the second shot and off to double-overtime they went.
By then, it was obvious that whichever team lost was going to have a long night of lamenting missed opportunities.
"To get a win like this on the road against the world champions, it says a lot," Minnesota coach Rick Adelman said.
NOTES: Allen returned from a five-game absence caused by the flu. … Miami was again without Dwyane Wade (hamstring) and Greg Oden (back spasms). … It was Rubio’s first time playing at Miami. … Minnesota was again without C Nikola Pekovic (ankle), who has missed 21 of the Timberwolves’ last 31 games. … A foul by Budinger saved Minnesota two points late in the third; he hit James on a play where Allen made a 3-pointer. After review, Allen’s 3 was correctly taken off the board and James only made one of his two ensuing free throws.