Notebook: Timberwolves 92, Rockets 79

Posted Jan 19, 2013 11:44 PM

By Jim Beilby, for

THE FACTS: In a game characterized by sloppy play and surprising performances, the Minnesota Timberwolves were less sloppy and more surprising than the Houston Rockets, defeating them 92-79 on Saturday night. The loss was Houston's seventh in a row and Houston dropped to 1-11 against Western conference opponents. Their sole victory came against Minnesota in Target Center on Dec 26.

With Minnesota ravaged by injuries (Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, Alexey Shved, Chase Budinger, Brandon Roy, and Malcolm Lee), sickness (Dante Cunningham), and missing their head coach, Rick Adelman, they got crucial and surprising contributions down the stretch from two players just signed this week to 10 day contracts, Chris Johnson and Mickael Gelabale. Johnson and Gelabale scored the first 23 points of the fourth quarter for Minnesota, expanding Minnesota's three-point lead to 15. Andrei Kirilenko led Minnesota with 21 points and 11 rebounds and Luke Ridnour added 16 points for Minnesota.

The Houston Rockets were led by James Harden's 18 points, seven rebounds, and five assists. But he did not have his best game, shooting only 5-of-18 from the field and 0-for-7 from beyond the arc.

QUOTABLE: "I would have to go back and look, but I don't recall in my experience having two guys like that come in and step in and putting in the kind of work for us tonight on both ends of the floor. It wasn't just the offensive end, but both of them had tough assignments at the other end. Chris obviously did a great job of protecting the rim and Gelabale doing a great job guarding Harden."
-- Acting coach, Terry Porter, on having two guys on 10 day contracts step up big.

THE STAT: As a team, Houston continually shot themselves in the foot with turnovers (20) and fouls (29). In addition, Houston struggled to make shots. They shot 32.1 percent from the floor, a season low for Houston and for a Wolves opponent.

TURNING POINT: After leading by 13 in the third quarter, Houston closed Minnesota's lead to three with 11:17 to play in the final quarter. At this point, Johnson and Gelabale had only combined for five points. After a 27-15 burst, Johnson and Gelabale had combined for 26 points and Minnesota had a 15 point lead with only seconds to play in the game. The Minnesota crowd, fully aware of the irony, opened up a MVP chant for Johnson as he shot a pair of free throws in the middle of Minnesota's run.

QUOTABLE II: "We are not playing well. Bottom line. We were really in a funk. We have to work our way out of it and that is all there is. There is nothing else besides hard work. We are not getting any easy baskets anymore. We were leading the league in scoring. We are not running hard. We are just so out of character now."
-- Houston coach Kevin McHale.

GOOD MOVE: To fill out their roster, Minnesota signed two players to 10 day contracts: Johnson, a center, and Gelabale, a forward. Johnson was with Minnesota in training camp and Gelabale was playing in Spain.

BAD MOVE: Minnesota gave Houston free points at the end of both the second quarter and the third quarter. A traveling call and poor defense led to a pair of Harden free throws with 1.6 seconds to play in the second quarter. And a technical foul by Ridnour added one more. And a terrible foul by J.J. Barea gave Toney Douglas another pair of free throws with 0.4 seconds to play in the third quarter.

NOTABLE: The Wolves started their 12th different lineup tonight.

UP NEXT: For the Wolves, Monday @ Atlanta, Wednesday vs. Brooklyn, Friday at Washington. For the Rockets, Monday at Charlotte, Wednesday vs. Denver, Friday at New Orleans.