Heat pull away late, top Timberwolves 123-105

MIAMI (AP) — Hassan Whiteside’s shots were limited. His effectiveness was not.

Whiteside scored 23 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, Tyler Johnson scored 23 off the bench and the Heat downed the Minnesota Timberwolves 123-105 on Friday night.

Goran Dragic scored 19 points and added 10 assists for Miami, which lost Dion Waiters to a sprained ankle in the second quarter. The Heat shot a season-best 59 percent, led by Whiteside going 10 for 11 from the floor.

“Probably anybody could have followed our team when we went on all those championship runs, but this is a totally different group,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “The enthusiasm, the passion to follow this team probably matches that — and I think that’s pretty cool.”

Miami moved to 23-5 in its last 28 games, 15-1 in its last 16 at home. The win also ensured that Miami would end the evening among the top eight in the Eastern Conference.

James Johnson scored 17 for the Heat, who never trailed and put the game away with a 15-2 run in the fourth quarter. The win also ensured that Miami would finish the night among the top eight in the Eastern Conference.

“These guys are very hungry,” Whiteside said. “A lot of these guys, we got them out of the jungle. These guys have been written off in the NBA.”

Karl-Anthony Towns had 31 points and 11 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who were 21 for 22 from the foul line. Andrew Wiggins scored 25 points and Ricky Rubio added 20 for Minnesota.

“We have more than enough to win with,” Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We’ve got to get in there and everyone’s got to do their job. This isn’t AAU basketball.”

The Timberwolves were outrebounded 40-28, got outscored 24-6 from 3-point range and had only 14 assists to Miami’s 29.

“It was terrible,” Wiggins said of Minnesota’s defense. “Any time a team shoots 60 percent is not good. We’ve just got to step it up in practice, look at what we did and fix it.”

Waiters got hurt on a drive with 3:07 left in the first half. He was fouled by Wiggins, and Waiters’ left ankle twisted when he appeared to land on the foot of Minnesota’s Gorgui Dieng. Waiters immediately grabbed at the ankle and winced in pain and eventually got carried to the Heat locker room.

Waiters was diagnosed with a sprain after X-rays came back negative, and there’s no timetable for his return.

TIP-INS

Timberwolves: Rubio reached 20 points for the fourth consecutive game. … Minnesota has won its last four games at home, and lost its last four on the road. … Lance Stephenson (left ankle) was not with the team, and his second 10-day contract is expiring. … Minnesota has 14 games left, and only one (at Indiana on March 28) against the East.

Heat: Miami held a 60-26 edge in bench scoring. … Whiteside’s 11th consecutive double-double tied a Heat franchise record, set by Rony Seikaly in 1991-92. … Luke Babbitt made a 10-foot jumper in the opening minutes, significant because it was his first 2-point basket since Feb. 1. He was 0 for 8 inside the arc during that span.

FILIPINO HERITAGE

There were watch parties in the Philippines — starting early Saturday morning there — to watch Heat-Timberwolves live, as part of the NBA’s Filipino Heritage Week. Spoelstra is Filipino-American, and his staff got to eat some food from his mother’s homeland earlier this week such as pancit (a noodle dish) and lumpia (similar to a spring roll). Spoelstra said the attention from the Philippines is “extremely humbling.”

STAT ODDITY

Minnesota is now 12 games under .500, and has been outscored by only 22 points this season. Atlanta, meanwhile, has been outscored by 48 points this season — and is six games over .500, sitting No. 5 in the East.

UP NEXT

Timberwolves: Visit New Orleans on Sunday. Minnesota is 0-2 against the Pelicans this season.

Heat: Host Portland on Sunday. Miami is 0-5 on Sundays this season.

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