Jimmy Butler did his part on Friday night to try to send the Miami Heat home with a victory to cap their four-game trip.
But his 30 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists weren’t enough as the Heat dropped their third game in a row, this time to the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves.
And now Miami returns home Sunday against a much tougher opponent when it hosts the Brooklyn Nets.
“You just think we’re such a good team, and then reality hits us, we’re humbled,” Butler said. “And I’m glad. Because that’s what this game does to you, home, away, no matter what opponent you’re playing against, you just stroll into the game thinking you’re nice, you’re good, this is what happens. If we don’t fix it, I hope it continues to happen to us.”
Karl-Anthony Towns was back in Minnesota’s lineup and scored 24 points and sparked a 22-6 run in the fourth quarter to take the game from the Heat.
“We don’t deserve to win,” Butler said. “Whenever we take these teams lightly, we don’t do what we’re supposed to do on the defensive end. We just look bad, as a whole, as a group, as a unit. It’s not good basketball.”
Another factor in the Heat’s struggles has been the inability to get Victor Oladipo acclimated into their rotation. Oladipo has played only four games since being traded to Miami and has missed the past four games with right-knee soreness.
The reigning Eastern Conference champions have slipped to seventh place in the East — which would put them in the play-in tournament for the final two playoff spots — and 1 1/2 games behind the New York Knicks.
The Heat must regain its formula for good basketball quickly against a Nets team that showed off its depth Friday during a 130-115 win over the Charlotte Hornets. Even with James Harden sidelined with a right-hamstring strain and losing LaMarcus Aldridge, who announced his retirement due to a heart issue this week, the Nets continued to show their scoring punch.
Brooklyn also lost point guard Chris Chiozza, who recently had hand surgery, and has been playing without Tyler Johnson (right-knee soreness).
The Nets went 21-of-41 from 3-point range, led by Joe Harris’ 6-for-9 shooting from long distance. Harris scored 26 points while Kevin Durant had 25 points and 11 assists.
Landry Shamet also made six triples off Brooklyn’s bench and finished with 20 points.
“When we share the ball, we’re tough to beat,” Harris said. “We got a lot of catch-and-shoot threes tonight. When the threes go in for us, it opens up a lot of other options.”
Nets general manager Sean Marks said Harden is progressing but observed he needs another day or two of playing 4-on-4 or 5-on-5 in practice. Harden has missed five consecutive games with what was diagnosed as a Grade 1 strain.
“He’s progressed well,” Marks said. “He’s met his markers up to this point, and we’ll just continue to progress him along, and hopefully it’s not too much longer. At this point, I can’t put a timetable on whether it’s two days, five days, or so forth.”
–Field Level Media