MIAMI (SportsDirect Inc.) — The Miami Heat finally are in position for a spot in the top eight in the Eastern Conference and get a nice stretch of home games as they try to climb even higher.
The Minnesota Timberwolves, who visit the Heat on Friday, are doing their best to stay in the race for the No. 8 spot in the West and can’t afford to drop many more games.
Miami point guard Goran Dragic sat out a 102-98 loss at Indiana on Sunday after taking an elbow to the eye the previous day in a win over the Raptors but returned to the lineup on Wednesday.
The 30-year-old played through a black eye and managed to score 33 points in the 120-112 win over New Orleans, which pulled the Heat into a tie with Detroit for the No. 8 spot in the East.
The Timberwolves continue to be a dangerous team at home but dropped their last three on the road, including a 117-104 setback at Boston on Wednesday that began a stretch of six of seven away from home.
“Us losing is a big loss,” Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns told reporters after Wednesday’s setback. “Every game is important. I can’t stress that enough. Every game is putting us closer and closer or farther and farther. We took a step back today. We have to regroup and get ready for Miami.”
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBATV, FSN North (Minnesota), FSN Sun (Miami)
ABOUT THE TIMBERWOLVES (28-39): Minnesota remains in sight of the eighth-place Denver Nuggets with 15 games left, but the team is not thinking about making up the deficit all in one chunk. “Get ready for the next one,” Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters. “There is a lot of head-to-head going on right now. You just get ready for the next one. I’ve seen a lot of stuff happen over the years.” Making up the deficit will require better efforts on the defensive end after Minnesota allowed the Celtics to shoot 54.4 percent from the floor on Wednesday.
ABOUT THE HEAT (33-35): Miami climbed all the way from 11-30 to a tie for the No. 8 spot in the East and is only a half-game behind seventh-place Milwaukee and two back of sixth-place Indiana. “(The eighth seed is) ours to lose at this point,” Heat guard Josh Richardson told the Miami Herald. “I think we’ve played ourselves into a good position, and we just can’t rely on what the other guys are doing. A lot of teams might get into looking at the standings, hoping teams lose and stuff like that. But we’ve just got to do what we do.” Miami has not lost at home in over a month and began a five-game homestand with Wednesday’s triumph.
1. Heat C Hassan Whiteside is enjoying a streak of 10 straight double-doubles.
2. Timberwolves PF Nemanja Bjelica (ankle) left Wednesday’s game and is doubtful for Friday.
3. The road team took the last three in the series, including Miami’s 115-113 win at Minnesota on Feb. 6.
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