MINNEAPOLIS (CBSMiami/SportsDirect) – Go back a month and look at the NBA schedule. Monday’s matchup between the Miami Heat and Minnesota Timberwolves didn’t have much fan appeal.
A lot has changed since then; at least for one of those teams.
Miami is suddenly the hottest team in the league and they will be tested with a four-game road trip, which begins against the struggling Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday.
The Heat have won 10 straight contests after opening the season 11-30 – averaging more than 110 points over the last eight – following Saturday’s 125-102 rout of Philadelphia.
“You have to maintain perspective, don’t believe the hype,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters. “We still have work to do. We still have to get another level or two or three. Whatever, we’re open to it.”
The Heat have relied on a big three of Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters and Hassan Whiteside while the Timberwolves’ three has been reduced to two after guard Zach LaVine was lost for the season with a torn ACL.
Minnesota learned Saturday that LaVine (18.9 points per game), third on the team behind Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins in scoring, was done and later lost its third straight against a Memphis team sitting three regulars.
“This is one we should have got,” Wiggins told reporters after the Timberwolves blew a 16-point lead after one quarter.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, FSN Sun (Miami), FSN North (Minnesota)
ABOUT THE HEAT (21-30): Whiteside was in charge Saturday against Philadelphia, pouring in 30 points and grabbing 20 rebounds in an effort Dragic called “phenomenal,” after going for 18 and 18 three days earlier in a big win over Atlanta.
“When he’s dominating like that,” Waiters told reporters of Whiteside, “it makes it easier for everybody.”
Waiters drained 7-of-10 from behind the arc the last two contests and averages 15.6 points overall while Dragic tops the team in scoring (19.8) after recording 22.4 points and 7.2 assists per game over the last five encounters.
ABOUT THE TIMBERWOLVES (19-32): Brandon Rush moves into LaVine’s spot in the starting lineup, but many different players must raise their level of play to make up for his loss.
“His overall game had blossomed,” Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters of LaVine. “He’s shooting the three great, the free throws, the drives. All of it. He’ll get through it. He’s a mentally tough kid. He’s already talking about what’s next.”
Towns averages 23.1 points and 12 boards while Wiggins scores 22.1 per game and Shabazz Muhammad averaged 14 points the last five contests.
- Minnesota PG Kris Dunn (hand), the fifth overall pick in the 2016 draft, is expected to be available after missing the last two games.
- Miami SG Rodney McGruder (illness) missed the second half Saturday, but made the trip to Minnesota.
- The Timberwolves have won three of the past five meetings, including a 103-91 triumph at Miami in the last meeting on Nov. 17, 2015.
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