Heat fail to measure up, fall 106-90 in Minnesota as Butler, Love sit
Sometimes you just don’t measure up.
That proved to be the case Saturday night for the Miami Heat in a 106-90 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center.
Against the height, size and bulk of Karl-Anthony Towns, Rudy Gobert and Naz Reid, the shorthanded Heat quite figuratively came up short.
Outscored 58-38 in the paint on a night Towns and Gobert went for double-doubles and Reid for 25 points, the Heat lacked the means to compensate.
“That’s what they do,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They’re very intent on attacking, putting pressure on the paint. They had almost 60 in the paint. A lot of that was against our zone, which was very unusual.”
Playing in the absences of Jimmy Butler, Kevin Love and other veteran components, the Heat, already facing a tall order, lacked a perimeter counter to Minnesota’s size.
For the Heat, there were 22 points from Tyler Herro, 19 from Bam Adebayo, and little else of substance from a rotation with a heavy dose of not-quite-ready youth. Even then, Herro’s offense came on 8-of-23 shooting, while Adebayo was limited to three rebounds.
“It was the second night of a back to back,” Herro said, “and we just weren’t able to match it the entire 48 minutes.”
A night after being outscored in the paint 52-36 in a 119-111 loss to the Boston Celtics at the start of this three-game trip, the Heat experienced something similar, with Gobert closing with 14 points and 14 rebounds, and Towns with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
The Timberwolves also got 19 points from Anthony Edwards.
“It was their home opener and they were juiced and ready to play,” Spoelstra said.
The Heat’s trip concludes Monday against Damian Lillard, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks.
Five Degrees of Heat from Saturday night’s game:
1 Closing time: The Heat led 31-26 at the end of the first period, trailed 55-53 at halftime, and then went into the fourth quarter down 80-73, after Minnesota closed the third on a 12-3 run.
Later, for the second night in a row, a fourth-quarter coach’s challenge went against the Heat, with a charge drawn by Adebayo instead turning into a 3-point play for Reid and an 85-79 Timberwolves lead. Reid promptly followed with a pair of 3-pointers for a 91-79 lead,
Minnesota continued to take off from there, to a 101-80 lead.
“It just was an avalanche there,” Spoelstra said. “We just could not get a stop those last four minutes.”
2. The Butler plan: In the wake of insisting his team does not practice load management, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said pregame Butler’s day off was part of a process formulated for the start of the season.
“It was part of the plan with Jimmy and the training staff,” Spoelstra said. “We just want to continue to make sure that he’s feeling good. You know, particularly early on.”
Unlike last season, when the Heat went from December through January without playing Butler on both ends of back-to-back sets, Spoelstra said there is no preset approach.
“No, we’re going to take it week by week,” he said,
The Heat’s next back-to-back set is Nov. 11 in Atlanta and Nov. 12 in San Antonio.
The Heat’s hand for Saturday was somewhat forced by the NBA’s new Player Participation Policy. That policy says players cannot summarily sit out both ends of back-to-back games, unless they meet age or career-minute thresholds, ones Butler has yet to meet. In addition, teams must prioritize nationally televised games, with Friday’s loss in Boston nationally televised by ESPN. Saturday was only a telecast in the Heat and Timberwolves markets.
3. The Love factor: As for Love, the 35-year-old forward took several rough blows, including one when he was called for a foul, late in Friday’s loss.
Unlike with Butler, Love’s absence was not pre-planned.
“There’s about three things that happened to K-Love yesterday,” Spoelstra said pregame. “The last two hits kind of jarred his neck and his back. I had a feeling the way he was walking on the plane last night that he wouldn’t be available today.
“But he’s doing everything he possibly can to be hopefully be ready for Monday.”
4. So Jovic, Jaquez: Down two starters, Spoelstra injected 2022 first-round pick Nikola Jovic and 2023 first-round pick Jaime Jaquez Jr. into the starting mix.
Those two paired within Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro could have led to one of the Heat’s youngest-ever starting lineups had it not been for 37-year-old Kyle Lowry opening at point guard.
Jovic closed with eight points and 11 rebounds in 21 minutes.
“I got an opportunity. I was next up to be called,” Jovic said. “I mean it was not good, we lost. I think we could have done a lot better.”
The start for Jaquez was somewhat surprising considering earlier in the week he had said he was on a minutes restriction due to a groin strain suffered during a preseason practice.
“I figured it would be best to start him and might as well give that challenge,” Spoelstra said. “And he’s a smart player. He picks up things fast, so day by day, he’s improving.”
The rotation was further muddled due to the injury absences of Caleb Martin (knee), Josh Richardson (foot) and Haywood Highsmith (knee).
5. The twists: With a reduced roster, the Heat also injected Jamal Cain into the rotation, with the forward on a two-way contract playing particularly well with former Heat G League teammate Dru Smith, who had four assists in his initial stint.
The absence of Butler also had the Heat upping their 3-point attempts and moving for the first time this season to extended use of zone defense.
“Our guys will be back,” Lowry said. “They’ll be fine sooner than later, and it’s a marathon not a sprint.”