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Game Day: Rockets at Timberwolves

Analysis and observations from Houston's 107-89 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves

  • Rockets vs. Timberwolves
    Dwight Howard has 18 points and 15 rebounds, and the surging Rockets hold off the Timberwolves for their sixth consecutive win.
  • Arena Link: Chandler Parsons
    Chandler Parsons joins GameTime following the Rockets win over the Timberwolves.
  • Lin Lobs to T.J.
    Jeremy Lin lofts it to Terrence Jones for the high-flying flush.
  • Denied by Dwight
    Jose Barea gets his shot slapped to the Rockets' bench by Dwight Howard.
  • Rockets vs. Timberwolves: First half
    The Rockets have four players in double digit points at the half and they lead the Timberwolves 67-58 at the break.
  • Rockets on the Run
    Dwight Howard rips down the board and outlets to James Harden who one-times it to Chandler Parsons for the jam.

HOUSTON - The Rockets are coming.

Those are the words that most resonate in the immediate aftermath of Houston’s sojourn to the frozen north – a trip that culminated with the club’s sixth straight victory.

Rockets at Timberwolves Photos

The Rockets encountered agonizing cold spells both on and off the floor in Milwaukee and Minnesota, forcing them to endure the sort of chill that burrows so deeply inside one’s bones it can seem as if it’s replaced the marrow within. They suffered through stretches during which it seemed a massive wall stood between themselves and the basket. Given the harrowing elements, any moment that offered even the slightest respite surely seemed a siren song too sweet to ignore. Of course, those instances proved to be the most perilous of all.

But no matter how harsh the conditions or hazardous the terrain, Houston managed to find and fight its way through. The Rockets overcame Milwaukee’s multiple comeback attempts on Saturday and did the same Monday night when Minnesota seemed intent to spring an upset.

Houston ultimately tamed the North no differently than it has conquered the rest of the competition throughout the entirety of its season-best win streak: not with a dragon, but with yet another beastly performance from Dwight Howard.

“I thought Dwight did a really nice job in the post,” said Houston head coach Kevin McHale after his All-Star center delivered 18 points, 15 boards and three blocked shots. “He was getting double-teamed, moved it out, and we had open shots because he was really facilitating a lot of hockey assists tonight.”

Indeed, the standard box score numbers fail to fully capture the totality of Howard’s dominance. Defensively he was The Wall, towering over everything with a foreboding presence that provoked awe and intimidation. And on the other end of the floor, he devoured offensive rebounds, overpowered Minnesota’s overmatched frontline, and patiently picked out open perimeter shooters when the Timberwolves threw double- and triple-teams his way.

No, raw numbers don’t do his performance justice. But if any comes closest it is this: while Howard was on the floor tonight, Houston outscored its opposition by a whopping 27 points.

“We’re playing for something big so every game is important,” Howard said immediately after Houston’s 107-89 victory.

The Rockets are heading home. Warmer temperatures await. Winter’s grip on the realm is loosening. New words are needed.

The NBA is officially on red alert. The Rockets are coming.

POST-GAME OBSERVATIONS

- Ricky Rubio delivers some of the most eye-pleasing dishes you'll ever see, but Chandler Parsons' trio of passes to start tonight's game were nothing short of exquisite. It took less than six minutes for Parsons to pile up five assists tonight. He only managed one more the rest of the way, as he spent the rest of the evening out-Brewering fellow former Florida Gator Corey Brewer, tormenting the Timberwolves with one fast break breakout after another. He finished with a team-high 20 points.

- For the fourth time in their last five games, the Rockets hit the 60-point mark by halftime. They did so tonight courtesy of a beautiful pass from Jeremy Lin to Donatas Motiejunas who, all in one motion, rather remarkably chased down the feed, gained control and scored while being fouled.

Both players, in fact, gave Houston quality minutes off the bench, especially in the second half. D-Mo drained a pair of 3s on his way to scoring nine points in 17 minutes of action and though Lin’s shot wasn’t falling, he still made himself a menace by repeatedly racing up the floor in transition and finding his teammates for easy scores. Lin finished with a team-high seven assists and was a huge reason why the Rockets outscored Minnesota 26-13 in terms of fast break points.

- The Song of Ice and Fire spiel off the top couldn’t have been more appropriate for a game that featured so many mind-boggling runs with both clubs exchanging stretches of scorching hot play with periods of frigid offensive futility. During one two-minute sequence in the third quarter, the Rockets ran off 12 straight points, extending their league to 15. Then they promptly spent the final 8:15 of the period scoring a grand total of three points, allowing Minnesota to trim its deficit down to four.

But when the final frame began, the Timberwolves’ season-long boogey man returned with a vengeance. It took Minnesota more than six minutes to get on the scoreboard as Howard and the Rockets’ defense flexed their muscle and proceeded to place the T-Wolves’ in a stranglehold from which they never would recover. Basically, the vast majority of the fourth quarter very much resembled this ill-fated J.J. Barea (now 2-for-19 from the field against Houston this season) drive that Dwight swatted into the second row:

The Timberwolves wilted while Howard and Houston turned all those stops and turnovers into one transition score into another. Ball game.

- With the win, the Rockets improve to 35-17 on the season, becoming the second-fastest team in franchise history to reach the 35-win plateau. You might recall the Rockets team that got there faster: it was none other than the 1993-94 squad that won the first title in Houston’s major pro sports history.

Up next for the Rockets: a home date with the Washington Wizards Wednesday night – Houston’s final game before the All-Star break.

QUOTES

KEVIN MCHALE

Turnovers

“Better concentration, they hurt us on our turnovers and second chance points. Once we got that under control we moved it pretty well and Dwight did a really nice job in the post, double team and moving it out. He had open shots, he was really facilitating, a lot of hockey assists tonight. When we got our movement and our pace up and got some stops we played really well and held them to 31 in the second half. It was big”

Run in the third

“No, we do that a lot. If you watch our team all year long we have a lot of flows inside of the game. We had a great opportunity to put them out earlier than we did and we had turnovers and had a lot of 4 point plays where we would miss a chippy or a shot and they would come down and score. But overall the second half was very good and our ball movement especially in that fourth quarter. We had miserable ball movement in our third quarter but it got better moving into the fourth.”

Kevin Love in the fourth

“Yeah, I mean Kevin missed a couple that he made early in the game but they did a better job of getting up in him and he tricked them on a couple plays and came off on down screen and faked off a couple down screens and popped up behind it. He played well; he’s a very good basketball player. He gives you a lot of trouble, he’s a problem regardless.”

CHANDLER PARSONS

Turnovers

“Just not trying to make the spectacular play, be solid. Not forcing anything and that’s what we’ve been doing really good lately. It’s a lot more fun to play that way and we have a lot of talented guys and we can be so balance every single night. You can’t scout us because you don’t know how we’re going to hurt you. Just have to be willing to play unselfish and take the extra pass”

Going into All-Star

“We definitely didn’t want to let up this game. A lot of teams this time of the year give some games away not being focused looking forward to All-Star week and we knew they weren’t going to lay down and they were going to make a run. We just wanted to come out and make good shots and they are a good offensive rebound team and we had to keep them off and they got a few easy one to start and we just wanted to keep our offensive and keep playing the way that we play”

DWIGHT HOWARD

“We just slowed down. Even though we tried to run, good breaks. The decision making, we didn’t try to rush it or make quick shots, take better shots and take our time. We shared the ball, we got good shots”

“We play the right way. We share the ball and we don’t over think out there. We just play, play for each other and we play great. We make the right pass and teammates get involved. We do an excellent job of sharing the ball and finding an open man and when we do that it makes it hard for teams to decide what they’re going to do, if they’re going to double out the posts or stay with the three point’s shoots. We just want to make teams make tough decisions on the floor”

TERRY PORTER

“Thought our guys gave great effort, especially in the second half they defensively had some break downs in the first half allowed 67 points, but in the second half we really did a good job of limiting them to their easy opportunities. In the second half only gave them 40 points but unfortunately for us we couldn’t make shots. Guys that normally have good shots, Alexey he struggled, J.J. obviously, Kevin he couldn’t make shots. A lot of guys that had good looks, looks we normally take, we just couldn’t knock down. A couple of times our floor balance wasn’t as good and sharp as they needed to be on those misses and they ran out and got some easy baskets and really kind of helped them extend the lead. It’s just one of those nights in our league that we couldn’t make shots when we needed to make shots and have someone get hot for us and no one got hot”

Transition D in the second?

“Yeah, obviously when you a play a team like them that is so up tempo one of the ways to do that is offensive execution. Knock them out; make them take it to the net. That will slow them down initially. We just didn’t have good floor balance. Missed shots. Like I said they have quite a few guys that can just get out and run and we just didn’t do a good job of being able to get back and really set our D and times that we did we really did a solid job. It kind of hurt us a little bit”

4th Quarter

“Missed shots. I thought for the most part we had stretches where we got quality possessions, they weren’t empty possessions. We did turn it over at times but they ran out on our turnovers just like they ran on our missed shots. Again, if we had done a much better job of guys making shots, but it was one of those nights. We have those types of nights in this league and I can’t fault guys in regards of our execution, moving the ball. The ball got stuck at points and guys moved the ball a little bit and moved the ball extremely well and got it moving side to side, we just couldn’t make shots.”

Starters

“It’s tough. Keep more starters on the floor I mean they played a good chunk of the third quarter already you can’t let them go forever, you have to give them rest and give the guys in the second unit on the floor and give them chances. It is what it is, we were short handed to begin with and so it's an opportunity and you just have to look at it like it’s an opportunity. In the first half that second unit made some big shots, Alexey made a couple big shots. Those guys made some big shots and those guys in the second weren’t able to knock down those big shots and there were stretches were we needed to maintain or be close enough and it’s just what happened”

RONNY TURIAF

On the team’s shooting struggles tonight:

“It happens I guess sometimes. You get some good looks and unfortunately they don’t bounce in. It’s unfortunate.”

On guarding James Harden:

“We all know who he is. He’s going to draw fouls. He’s going to be successful as you saw, forcing his way down into the paint, scoring tough baskets and creating plays for others by being so aggressive. That’s why he’s an All-Star.”

On if fatigue is a factor in the current stretch of games:

“I don’t know. We’ve just got to keep pushing. Regardless of whether we feel it or not, we’ve got to keep pushing. That’s what basketball is all about. When you have tough stretches like that, it reveals character. Do you cave in? Or do you just try to keep your head above water, just keep pushing and keep working and try to get better? You know that at the end of the day, things have to turn around eventually.”

KEVIN LOVE

On his thigh:

“It was tough today to get up and down the court most of all. In the halfcourt I was fine, but just to do this was tough. Knock of wood, if I don’t get it banged again, it’ll start to feel better. It’s just the way it goes.”

On the current stretch:

“It’s almost been like that three games in a row now where we’ve been in pretty good position, either ahead or right within striking distance. I think we were down four points going into the fourth then those first few minutes, the other team gets off to a better start than we do and pushes the lead up. We need to be better in the fourth quarter. Shots do need to fall, but at the same time, we need to have a better effort.”

On if there’s a sense of desperation going forward:

“It’s burning the candle at both ends basically, with there being less and less games and we just can’t continue to lose. Hopefully we’ll win this game on Wednesday and we’ll go into the break, get a few days rest and guys will continue to get healthy, get a little break with their mind and body and be ready to go next Wednesday.”

On the mood in the locker room:

“The mood is fine. We know that we’re just a little banged up right now. We just need to grind out this one on Wednesday, give ourselves the best shot and get the win. And like I mentioned, get healthy after the break.”

RICKY RUBIO

On the fourth quarter:

“In the last quarter, we just ran out of gas. We couldn’t make shots. We missed too many open shots in the third quarter and that hurt us because they were running after those misses. It hurts.”

On their approach going forward:

 “When we’re below or above .500, we weren’t looking at the record. We just want to play and do our thing and play as a team and improve. We just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”

“Like I said, one game at a time. Next opponent is Denver. It’s a team that’s right above us and we just want to play good and win that game.”