The Minnesota Timberwolves got off to a very hot start in this one. By the end of the first quarter they held a five-point lead and by halftime they built it up to 18!
The Wolves shot 55% from the field in the first half and had 16ast, 10 fast break points and 24 bench points. The Rockets shot 38.5% from the field in the first half, 29.4% from deep, 4-of-6 from the line, 15 turnovers, 2 fast break points and 11 bench points.
The Wolves forced the Rockets into a lot of first half turnovers of which they turned into a lot of easy baskets. While they were out running the break, the Wolves were holding one of the NBA's top transition offenses to just 2 points on the break. Greg Stiemsma & Chris Johnson had a terrific first half protecting the rim. Johnson had one of his two blocks in the first half and Stiemsma had all four of his blocks in those first two quarters.
The Wolves were hitting their shots in the first half against a very bad Houston Rockets defense.
Then came the second half and the inevitable letdown. The Wolves scored the first points of the third quarter to boost the lead to their largest of the night: 20. It got quite bad after that. The Rockets erupted in the third quarter to score 35 (just four less than what they scored the first two quarters! 39). Jeremy Lin had 12 of his 24 & Harden added 15 of his 37. By the end of the third it was just a 6-point game. That didn't last very long though. Despite a valiant effort from J.J. Barea who had 9 of his 19 in the fourth and Rubio who added another 5, James Harden, Greg Smith & Chandler Parsons had little trouble closing out the TWolves. Harden & Smith each scored 10 and Parsons added 9 as the Rockets took the lead with under five minutes to play and slowly built up a lead as the clock winded down.
The Rockets escaped with the 8-point W in a game that really should never have been close. The Rockets are currently the 7th seed in the West and if they're struggling against a Minnesota Timberwolves team that's without four of its five best players, I'd be concerned if I was Kevin McHale. If the Rockets do indeed make the playoffs, they'll likely be a 7th or 8th seed and have to face the San Antonio Spurs or Oklahoma City Thunder. For a team that can't play defense, they'll be a quick first round exit.
Let's take a look at tonight's top performers...
Derrick Williams & J.J. Barea both turned in 19-point outings, but it just wasn't enough in the final minutes to get the W. For the first time in a long time, J.J. had a big scoring night and he did so efficiently, missing just 4 of his 12 shots on the night.
Greg Stiemsma has looked much improved these last 3-4 games. I've been a notorious Stiemsma heckler all season, so it's been quite strange to watch. He still has a lot of work to do when it comes to rounding out his game. His low-post offense & rebounding are two work-in-progresses. All that said, I still hope he's not back next season.
James Harden & Jeremy Lin were just too much for the Wolves in this one. They had big second halves to lead the Rockets to the narrow W. Parsons was fairly subpar through three quarters, but he dumped in 9 of his 14 in the fourth quarter to help seal the win.
The Wolves actually shot a decent percentage from the field (for them), however their 25% on 24 attempts from deep wasn't helpful in this one. After 10 first half fast break points, they had just 4 in the second half. The Rockets cut back on the turnovers in the second half (committing just 3) and began to play the brand of basketball that has found them successful this season.
It's these kinds of games that make me really miss Kirilenko & Pekovic. It was a very close game in the final seconds and having those two could have really made a difference in this one. Here's hoping they'll be back on Sunday when the Wolves take on the Hornets at the Target Center. Until then, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!