MIAMI – In a draining double-overtime game, the out of the playoff hunt Minnesota Timberwolves had plenty of opportunities to quit.
In fact, it would have been easy to give up against the Miami Heat, who had the backing of their home fans in a game they really wanted to win as they battle for the right to have home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.
For an indication of how badly the Heat wanted to win this game, look no further than star forward LeBron James’ stat line: 34 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists in 48 minutes.
Yet, the Wolves did not quit, nor did they take the easy way out.
Instead, they defeated the Heat 122-121 in double overtime Friday night at AmericanAirlines Arena, getting one of two free throws by forward Corey Brewer with 1.8 seconds left in the second extra period.
Heat guard Ray Allen then missed a shot at the buzzer, allowing the drained Wolves to improve to 38-37 on the season.
“Great call,” Brewer said with a laugh when asked about the foul. “He pushed me in my back, (and) I made a free throw to win the game.”
Forward Kevin Love had 28 points and a game-high 11 rebounds to lead the Wolves.
Minnesota also got 24 points from reserve forward Chase Budinger, who made seven of nine shots, including five of seven on three-pointers.
Other Minnesota heroes included point guard Ricky Rubio, who had 13 points and a game-high 14 assists, and center Gorgui Dieng, who had 15 points and a game-high three blocks.
“We were not backing down from them,” Wolves Coach Rick Adelman said of his team. “I thought we had it won two or three times, and we finally got it at the end.
“It shows that our guys are still competing. To beat the world champions on the road – it was a great win.”
Besides James, the Heat (52-23) got 24 points and nine rebounds from forward Chris Bosh and 24 points and six assists from point guard Mario Chalmers.
The Heat led by as many as 10 points in the second quarter before the Wolves put together a 10-0 run and tied the score 52-52 at halftime.
Minnesota led by as many as nine points in the third quarter before Miami rallied.
Both teams had a chance to win in the final 3.9 seconds of regulation. Trailing by one,
Chalmers made just one of two free throws to tie the score 97-97.
On Minnesota’s final possession of regulation, Love had a step-back three-point try go in and out at the buzzer.
“I was under the basket,” Rubio said, “and I thought it was going in.”
In the first overtime, Love hit a jump hook with 14 seconds left to put Minnesota up 109-108.
Chalmers again had a chance to win the game with 1.9 seconds left in overtime, but he only made one of two free throws.
“I pride myself on being a clutch player,” Chalmers said. “I feel like I let my team down by missing those free throws.”
Love then missed a difficult shot from the corner to force double overtime.
In double OT, Love made a three-pointer with 29 seconds left to give Minnesota a 119-117 lead.
Love then blocked a shot by James, who eventually got the ball back, got fouled and made one of two free throws with 15 seconds left. That left Minnesota up 119-118.
Point guard Jose Juan Barea, a player with strong Miami ties, made two free throws with 13 seconds left to put Minnesota up 121-118.
But Bosh made a three-pointer at the top of the key to tie the score 121-121 with 10 seconds left, which set up Brewer’s winning sequence in which he drew the foul on Cole.
Allen, who scored 10 points from the fourth quarter on, returned after missing five straight games due to a stomach flu that hit his whole family.
It was the third longest absence in Allen’s 18-year career. He missed 16 games in 2007 and 11 in 2012, both with ankle injuries.
Up next, Minnesota plays at Orlando Saturday before returning home for three tough games — San Antonio, Chicago and Houston.
Meanwhile, Miami’s five-game homestand concludes with games Sunday vs. the New York Knicks and Tuesday vs. the Brooklyn Nets.
The Heat is still percentage points ahead of the Indiana Pacers in the fight for the top seed in the East. The Pacers lost to the Toronto Raptors earlier Wednesday.
“I’m over it,” Bosh said of the battle with Indiana. “We’ve been doing this for a month. We lose, they lose. We win, they win.
“It feels like this is going down to the wire, so we might as well have fun with it.”
NOTES: Minnesota PG Jose Juan Barea, who played his high school ball at Miami Christian, made his first start of the season. He started in place of SG Kevin Martin (foot injury). … Heat SG Dwyane Wade (hamstring) and C Greg Oden sat out their fifth game in a row. … Minnesota C Nikola Pekovic (ankle) missed his second straight game. He has made 54 starts this season. … With Pekovic out, C Giorgui Dieng, fresh off his Western Conference Rookie of the Month award for March, made his eighth start of the season. … Minnesota C Kevin Love had no triple-doubles in his first five NBA seasons, but has three this season, including two in the past five games. … Minnesota announced Friday that it had released PG A.J. Price. … Minnesota F Dante Cunningham was not with the team after being charged with domestic assault for allegedly attacking his girlfriend Thursday.
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