Heat scorch nets from 3, beat Timberwolves
MINNEAPOLIS — Miami guard Wayne Ellington brought the heat to Minneapolis and burned his former team on its home floor.
“He’s ignitable and he always has been,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said of Ellington. “He hits two, then he’s going for three, the whole team is looking for him. Guys know and feel when somebody’s ignitable.”
Ellington’s long-range shooting and a sound team defensive game helped lift the Miami Heat to a 109-97 road win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night at Target Center.
Miami set a new season high shooting 49 percent (19-for-39) from 3-point range, led by Ellington (6 of 9) and Goran Dragic (5-for-8). Ellington’s 21 points off the bench led the Heat followed by Dragic’s 20.
“Probably more than half of the threes were from the corners and those threes are the easiest threes in the game,” Dragic said. “Wayne was hitting those tonight and we just shared the ball and played good defense too.”
Dion Waiters added 17 while Hassan Whiteside, who sat out Miami’s 125-122 overtime loss to Minnesota on Oct. 30, posted a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Minnesota forward Jimmy Butler lamented the team’s defensive effort saying the Timberwolves “haven’t guarded anybody all year long.”
“We’ve got to eventually figure it out and want to play defense, stop trying to outscore the opposing team,” Butler added. “That starts with me and goes all the way down the line. We’ve got to start guarding somebody. It’s getting ridiculous and it’s getting sad. And I heard some boos in there, rightfully so. If we don’t want to go out and play hard and do what we’re supposed to do, they’re not going to come support us. So we need to change it around, quickly.”
Butler and Andrew Wiggins each scored 18 points to lead the Timberwolves with Jamal Crawford and Shabazz Muhammad adding 10 each off the bench.
Karl-Anthony Towns also finished with 18 points but did most of his damage late when the game was out of reach, scoring 16 of hi points in the fourth. Guarded primarily by Miami’s Justise Winslow, Towns did not score his first basket until 8:15 remained in the third quarter.
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra tasked the 6-7 Winslow with guarding the 7-foot Towns while putting the 7-foot Whiteside on 6-9 Minnesota forward Taj Gibson.
“It’s not the first time that Justise has played a bigger player,” Spoelstra said. “He set the tone at the beginning with his speed, his quickness, his physicality, getting them off the block but also pressuring them up top. We have him on the perimeter quite a bit at times and Justise was able to occupy (Towns) up there.”
Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau said Towns’ biggest problem was lack of movement.
“They’re looking for him and he’s standing stationary. You aren’t going to get the ball. You gotta keep moving. And you have to execute. He scored some at the end, but it was meaningless. Has to use his footwork.”
Minnesota’s 17 3-point attempts (7-for-17) was two less than the 19 Miami made.
“It becomes about the details of our offense, getting into a coherent action where everybody’s organized to spacing,” Spoelstra said. “It’s really astounding, the times we don’t, what our efficiency is on that.
“Much more organized, guys kept it simple, the screening was good, got our guys in the paint our shooters were moving into open spots better.”
The Heat have won nine of their past 10 visits to Target Center, with Minnesota’s only victory in that stretch coming in a 102-101 win on Feb. 4, 2015. Miami has won 16 of 29 all-time meetings between the two clubs at Target Center, including the last three, and 33 of 55 overall contests.
Miami led 58-48 at the half primarily on the strength of its 3-point shooting. The Heat shot 10-for-21 from long range, led by Dragic who scored 12 of his 15 points from behind the arc. All 12 of Ellington’s halftime points came on 3s and even Winslow, who entered the game 6-for-22 from downtown, made both of his 3-point attempts.
After trailing 2-0, Miami sprinted to a 22-9 lead halfway through the first quarter and extended the lead to 25-11. But back-to-back 3-pointers by Tyus Jones and Jamal Crawford sparked a 13-0 Minnesota run to pull the Timberwolves within one.
NOTES: Minnesota was without starting PG Jeff Teague who was a late scratch with right Achilles soreness. Teague, led the Timberwolves with 23 points and 11 assists in the previous meeting between the two teams, was replaced in the starting lineup by G Aaron Brooks. ... The Heat announced on Thursday that guard Derrick Walton Jr. has re-joined the Sioux Falls Skyforce as part of his two-way contract. ... Minnesota F Nemanj Bjelica was inactive on Friday due to a left mid-foot sprain. Anthony Brown was activated to replace Bjelica. ... Miami’s bench outscored Minnesota’s 41-32 for the game.