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Heat miss chance to increase lead in East

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The Miami Heat, who earlier in the week took over first place in the NBA’s Eastern Conference by percentage points, failed to take advantage of an opportunity to put a little distance between themselves and the Indiana Pacers Friday night.

Less than an hour after the Pacers dropped a 102-94 decision to the Raptors in Toronto, the Heat lost a double-overtime affair at home to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Wolves, who had chances to win in regulation and the first OT but missed shots at the buzzer, survived a 122-121 struggle when Ray Allen’s 3-pointer under heavy defensive pressure fell short at the buzzer.

Late missed free throws were costly for the Heat and nearly costly for the Wolves.

Twice the Heat’s Mario Chalmers missed the first of two free throws that could have given the Heat a late lead. The first was with 3.9 seconds left in regulation, the second with 1.9 remaining in overtime.

LeBron James, who led all scorers with 34 points on his way to passing the 23,000-point mark for his career, also managed to hit only one of two free throws with 16.2 seconds remaining in the second OT, leaving the Heat down by one.

After Minnesota’s Barea canned two free throws with 13.1 on the clock, Chris Bosh countered with a tying 3-pointer with 10.8 seconds remaining.

Corey Brewer then gave the Wolves their one-point advantage when he hit one of two free throws with 1.9 seconds left. He missed the second, and the Heat rebounded and got a timeout with 1.4 left, just enough time for Allen to take an inbounds pass from side court and turn and shoot the 22-footer.

Allen was playing for the first time since March 24 in a win over Portland. He had missed four games because of a flu virus and was scoreless through three quarters but scored 10 points in the fourth quarter and two overtimes, hitting two big 3-pointers.

The loss snapped the Heat’s winning streak at four games and left them with a 52-23 record (.693) to the Pacers’ 53-24 (.688), a .005 margin. Had the Heat managed to win, they would have had a two-game advantage in the “lost” column.

Dwyane Wade (hamstring) and Greg Oden (back) each missed their fourth consecutive game.

The Heat’s next outing is Sunday when the New York Knicks visit Miami for a nationally televised affair (1 p.m. EDT, ABC). The Knick just moved into the eighth and final playoff spot in the East with their win over Brooklyn Friday night.

The Pacers play Atlanta later Sunday night.

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