The Miami Heat face off against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night with the regular season nearing an end. Miami is coming off a loss to Dallas, while Minnesota is playing their first game since Wednesday night after three nights off prior.
Both teams battled it out on April 16th and the Timberwolves pulled away with an eight-point win in Minnesota. Heat forward Jimmy Butler promptly called the team “soft” and Miami responded with a 7-4 record since being called out.
Now, the two teams see each other again for what the Heat hope is an easy victory to help them in the playoff picture.
Limit the Minnesota Timberwolves’ three-pointers
The Timberwolves shot well from the three-point line in their two prior contests this week. They have shot 39.1% from beyond the arc and rank third in most three-pointers made per game in that timeframe.
On the flip side, Minnesota allows the fourth-highest allowed three-point percentage. But, it may not matter because the Heat have not been the greatest at defending the perimeter recently.
Despite having a 2-1 record, Miami is allowing opponents to shoot an NBA high 46.3% from beyond the arc. Its opponents are making the most shots on the second-most attempts.
The Heat have struggled in this area lately, but they must fix it tonight if they want to take control of the game. Granted, Butler didn’t play in Miami’s last meeting against Dallas, but he is needed on Friday night to accomplish this goal.
The Miami Heat need to win the bench minutes
The last time the two teams faced off, the Timberwolves had 52 points off the bench with three different players scoring 10-plus points. The Heat only had 25 points, but this was before Dewayne Dedmon and Andre Iguodala were out with hip injuries.
Over the last two games, Minnesota has averaged 47.0 bench points per game, which ranks fourth in the NBA since April 30. The main two players that gave Miami issues last time were Naz Reid and Juan Hernangomez. The duo also scored over 10 points in their last game against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Perhaps, Dedmon could help alleviate the damage of the Timberwolves’ bench by his presence in the paint. In their last game playing each other, Minnesota’s bench had 10 offensive rebounds, which ironically were the only offensive rebounds in the game.
The second chance opportunities were all due to the Timberwolves’ bench. This could be a good thing if Dedmon is playing at his best. We took a deep look into Dedmon’s impact on the Heat and they have substantially better with allowing offensive rebounds.
Goran Dragic was the only Heat bench player with three-plus points against Minnesota last time, but in their most recent win, two players achieved double figures and Tyler Herro was out. Herro may return on Friday night, which could give Miami all the ammo they need to win the bench minutes.
Shut down Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Anthony Edwards
Normally, a rookie shouldn’t be the main player to focus on when you are coming up with a game plan, but Anthony Edwards is not an ordinary rookie. Edwards, 19, has scored 25-plus points in the last three games, with a team-high 42 points against Memphis.
Edwards has been doing more than just scoring with a stat-line of 25.8 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 4.4 assists while shooting 49.5% from the field in his last five games. Those are absurd numbers from a rookie and he shouldn’t be taken lightly in Friday’s matchup.
The Heat held Edwards to 12 points in their last matchup, which is his lowest scoring output since his last 12-point performance against the Houston Rockets on March 26. That’s not the greatest stat considering Miami lost that game.
The defending Eastern Conference champions most likely won’t have that luxury this time around. Edwards shot 17-of-22 from the field and an insane 8-of-9 from the three-point line in his last game. Considering the Heat have been a poor defensive team on the perimeter, it could be a somewhat similar performance.
Miami needs to have one of its best defenders on the 19-year-old phenom if it wants to keep him at bay. The Timberwolves also have Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell who will need attention. If the Heat don’t come out locked in, it could end up being a trap game with limited games left.
The Heat should be better than the last time they fought to the final buzzer. However, life would be more difficult if Jimmy Butler is unable to go. Butler needed to carry the team on his back and they can’t allow that to happen this time.