The Minnesota Timberwolves continue a four-game road swing on Monday, visiting the Miami Heat in a matchup of teams aiming to get on the right side of .500 before the new year.
Miami, entering the latter half of a four-game homestand, dropped its last two games to fall to 16-17 — 113-103 last Tuesday to Chicago and 111-106 to Indiana on Friday.
All-NBA wing Jimmy Butler, who has played sporadically since early November due to injury, missed the Chicago loss then exited Friday’s defeat with a sprained ankle.
“It’s tough whenever I’m in and out of the lineup so much,” Butler said following the game to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “I don’t choose to do that obviously. But at this point, it’s frustrating.”
Butler keys the Heat on both sides of the floor, leading the team in scoring at 21.8 points per game and steals with 1.9 per game. His 6.8 rebounds per game are second only to Bam Adebayo’s 9.8, and Butler’s 5.8 assists a night trail only Kyle Lowry’s 5.9 per game among all Miami players.
The Heat are 5-7 with Butler out of the lineup this season, a record that includes a 105-101 loss to Minnesota on Nov. 21.
Their first meeting with Miami came during a season-best five-game winning streak for the Timberwolves. Since that streak concluded with the final victory on Nov. 23, Minnesota has gone 6-9, including losses in each of its last two outings.
The Timberwolves opened their current road swing on Friday in a 121-109 loss at NBA-leading Boston.
Anthony Edwards scored 30 points, giving him 117 over Minnesota’s last four games, and D’Angelo Russell finished with 21 points and 10 assists, but the void of Karl-Anthony Towns from the lineup with a right calf sprain loomed as the Timberwolves surrendered a 53-45 rebounding disparity.
Towns is averaging 20.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, and has been a key distributor for the Minnesota offense with 5.3 assists per game. Towns has been sidelined since Nov. 30.
“We’re not going to take the next step as a team until we rebound the ball better,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said in his postgame press conference. “We’re not physical enough. We don’t find guys. Again, a lot of times it’s our wings, it’s our smalls. We got to get in the fight.”
Minnesota ranks in the lower-third of the NBA with 42.6 rebounds per game. Miami, meanwhile, has been even less effective on the glass overall at 40.8 rebounds per game. When the teams met last month, Miami out-rebounded Minnesota, 46-40, but the Timberwolves shot 43.5 percent from the floor to the Heat’s 38.9.
Minnesota’s 49 percent shooting from the field on the season is the third-best in the league through games played on Saturday. Miami is shooting 45.1 percent, one of the five-lowest averages in the NBA and a factor in the Heat’s 108.0-points per game output.
Only the Los Angeles Clippers are scoring less on average than Miami.
–Field Level Media