Heat push past Timberwolves, 121-112, as showdowns in Boston loom

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This time, the focus was where it was needed.

So no, no second misstep this season against the Minnesota Timberwolves for the Miami Heat, just a 121-112 victory Friday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.

After losing their previous five to the ‘Wolves, the Heat decided enough was enough.

So now on to greater challenges, arguably the most significant challenges of the season: games on Sunday and Tuesday at TD Garden against the Boston Celtics.

For all that Erik Spoelstra’s team has been through this season, the path to salvation is at hand. With victories in the two games in Boston the Heat can assure themselves of a top-6 seed and avoid the play-in round, where a season could end ahead of the playoffs with one or two losses.

Friday, the Heat kept first things first, taking care of the Timberwolves to mute the sting of Tuesday’s home loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

Tyler Herro returned from a six-game absence to score 27, including a season-high six 3-pointers, with Jimmy Butler back from a one-game absence and scoring 25.

For the Heat, there also were 23 points from Goran Dragic and 15 from Bam Adebayo, to help offset 27 from Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns and 25 from emerging Minnesota guard Anthony Edwards.

And with that, into sixth place in the Eastern Conference, a half-game behind No. 5 Atlanta, with five games remaining in the Heat’s regular season.


Five Degrees of Heat from Friday’s game:

1. Closing time: The Heat led 59-54 at the half and 89-78 after three quarters, pushing their lead to 14 early in the fourth.

Minnesota then closed within 99-92 midway through the final period and again were within seven when Spoelstra called time with 3:31 to play.

Eventually, a Dragic 3-pointer with 1:55 to go made it a 10-point game, with another Dragic 3-pointer making it 114-101.

2. Butler back: Butler was back, and back in attack mode, after missing Tuesday’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks with flu-like symptoms.

Paying with aggression on both ends from the outset, he was up to 18 points and four steals going into the fourth quarter.

He closed 11 of 14 from the line.

3. Herro, too: Herro returned to the rotation after missing the previous six games with a sore right foot and immediately was ignitable.

In his opening 10-minute stint, Herro scored 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field and 4 of 4 on 3-pointers.

He kept going from there, closing 10 of 13 from the field.

4. Dragic early: The Heat not only opened the second quarter with an 8-0 run, but did it with both Butler and Adebayo on the bench.

A revitalized Dragic and the return of Herro allowed the Heat to survive the types of minutes that previously had been a concern.

Dragic had 15 points by halftime, on 7-of-11 shooting.

5. Testy times: Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell was ejected with two quick technical fouls with 4:35 left in the third period for arguing about the officiating. He exited with 17 points in his 26 minutes.

Russell’s second technical followed technical fouls earlier in the third period on Timberwolves coach Chris Finch and Minnesota guard Ricky Rubio.

Later, Butler and Towns were called for a double technical foul in the fourth quarter.

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