MINNEAPOLIS – Erik Spoelstra fell on the sword.
The Heat coach exonerated Okaro White and James Johnson for turnovers late in Miami’s 115-113 victory over the Timberwolves on Monday, a game in which it nearly squandered after leading the entire way.
With 30 seconds remaining and leading by four points, Spoelstra inserted rookie Okaro White for center Hassan Whiteside. He had White deep in the backcourt to receive the inbounds pass, one the Heat had difficulty completing once, forcing Dion Waiters to call a time out.
White received the ball and seconds later starting dribbling up the court. Then the trap came, White left his feet and threw away the ball.
Andrew Wiggins made the steal, rushed to the rim, scored and was fouled by White. The free throw pulled Minnesota within one.
On the next possession James Johnson had possession, was trapped, and the result was the same. Now, Minnesota was heading down court with a chance to take the lead.
Spoelstra blamed himself for not having his players prepared for the pressure.
“That was really more of a coaching issue on my part,” he said. “I didn’t have us prepared for the scheme at the end of them trying to trap instead of foul, which I thought was very clever. I just didn’t handle it right in the time outs.
“We got into two awkward possessions (and) you do have to credit them. I don’t want our guys feeling bad. We had a seven point lead. I’ve got to do my job.”
But Wiggins bailed out the Spoelstra and the Heat. He misfired on a jumper with 11 seconds remaining that would have given Minnesota its first lead of the game and, after Whiteside, who had returned to the game, made 1-of-2 free throws, he then did the same on a potential game-tying shot from 15 feet at the buzzer.
Spoelstra exhaled and the Heat walked off the court for the 11th straight time with the win.