Miami Heat came into Friday night looking for their fifth straight win to extend their lead atop the Eastern Conference. However that was not to be the case, as the Minnesota Timberwolves came into the American Airlines Arena and upset the defending champions in a 122-121 double overtime thriller.
Miami will be kicking themselves though, not because of the result, but the manner in which it came as they wasted golden chances to seal it at the free-throw line.
With the Heat trailing by one and the clock winding down at the closing stages of regulation, Mario Chalmers was controversially sent to the line after officials called a blocking foul during a tussle with J.J Barea, when the diminutive guard tried to absorb the contact for a charge.
But the usually clutch Chalmers missed the first free-throw and could only tie the game with 3.9 seconds left.
Minnesota could’ve have clinched it with a last second Kevin Love heave of a step back jumper to create space against Chris Bosh, but it rattled half way down the rim and rolled out.
The first overtime period was almost a carbon copy of the regulation period, as Rio was again controversially sent to line after officials claimed Corey Brewer had impeded him on the drive.
But just as before Miami wasted a point at the charity stripe by missing the first attempt. And again Love couldn’t convert with Bosh draped all over him soon after.
The second O.T looked destined for more drama when Bosh levelled the game at 121 a piece with a three-pointer from the top of the arc, answering Barea’s two late free-throws with 10 seconds left to play.
Ironically, the game would be settled at the line when Norris Cole undercut Brewer who, perhaps in the spirit of the game, converted one of his freebies to seal the tie.
After the game, Erik Spoelstra reflected on the ending by saying: “We had our chances. Either a key stop, one less turnover, a free throw here or there, we had our opportunities. They just made one last play.”
At least Coach Spo isn’t offering up any excuses, instead acknowledging that Minnesota were simply the better team on the night by saying: “They played a terrific game, they really did.”
Bosh and Chalmers finished the game with 24 points each, while LeBron James led all scorers with 34. Yet despite his impressive performance, he too has to share some of the blame in the loss because he also missed a free-throw down the stretch.
Miami will have to put the loss at the back of their minds, quickly recuperate and be ready for the New York Knick’s visit on Sunday.
They will have to be on top of their game in order to beat a resurgent Knicks team that has battled their way back into playoff contention, thanks to an eight-game win streak in March and three victories in the last four games.
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