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Wednesday April 13, 2011 11:39 PM

Rockets Wrap Up Season On Winning Note

Budinger, Dragic star as Houston trounces Timberwolves 121-102

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com

HOUSTON - Some shots brought forth a great big smile. Others came accompanied with a scowl. But no matter the look on Chase Budinger’s face, the result was almost always the same: one bucket after another, on the way to recording a career-high and a big Rockets win.

With Budinger exploding for a whopping 35 points and Goran Dragic netting his first career triple-double, the Rockets rolled to a 121-102 victory over Minnesota in their season finale. In many ways it served as a fitting end to the campaign, showcasing the offense that made Houston such a force during the second-half of the season. The team’s ball movement, spacing and shooting were all top notch, resulting in some eye-popping final numbers for several Rockets players.

Dragic ended the evening with 11 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists, wrapping up his 3-game stint as the team’s starter in place of the injured Kyle Lowry with near triple-double averages of 13.3 points, 10.3 boards and 8.3 assists. He also joined Lowry and Chuck Hayes in Houston’s 2010-11 triple-double club, becoming the first trio of Rockets players to achieve that benchmark in the same season since the 1996-97 team that saw Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and Clyde Drexler pull off the feat.

Kevin Martin, meanwhile, was as efficient as ever, racking up 25 points on just 14 shots from the field. Courtney Lee enjoyed a monster night as well, tallying 22 points off the bench. But no one came up bigger than Budinger, who started hot and never cooled off, routinely torching the T-Wolves from the outside, where he hit 4-of-8 from beyond the arc, and inside, throwing down one dunk after another thanks to a series of baseline cuts and backdoor passes that Minnesota seemed utterly powerless to stop.

“I caught the ball and made some moves,” said the second-year swingman, who knocked down 12 of his 21 shots from the field and all seven of his free throws. “I was open enough and I just let it go and it was nothing but net so you know when you get that feeling it just feels great out there.”

Houston’s victory also allowed Rockets Head Coach Rick Adelman to move past Bill Fitch into 8th all-time on the NBA’s winningest coaches list with 945 wins. After the game, Adelman acknowledged that there was definitely something special about achieving that milestone with a Rockets team that fully embraced his brand of basketball.

“I just enjoy these guys so much, I look at tonight. We scored 121 pts and had 32 assists, really unselfish again tonight. I just love the way that they finished the season, just like they've been doing all year, we could've caved in a couple of times and we never did it all year long… We finished the season on a good note.”

And 1s: Prior to Wednesday’s game, Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey announced the signing of forward Marqus Blakely to a multi-year contract.

Blakely (6-5, 225, Vermont) earned a GATORADE Call-Up from the D-league’s Iowa Energy. This past season, Blakely averaged 15.0 points (.625, 287-459 FG), 6.3 rebounds, 1.47 steals and 1.2 assists in 49 games (19 starts) between the Bakersfield Jam and Iowa. He was traded by Bakersfield to Iowa for a 2011 first-round pick on Jan. 24, 2011, helping the Engery capture the D-League’s Eastern Conference title with a 37-13 (.740) regular season record. Blakely, along with teammate Curtis Stinson, were also named NBA Development League Co-Performers of the Week for games played March 14-20.

As a collegian, Blakely finished his career at Vermont ranked fifth all-time in scoring (1,875), second in rebounding (1,044) and field goal percentage (.571), third in blocks (254) and field goals made (673), fourth in free throws made (525), and 10th in assists (304). He stands as a two-time America East Player of the Year winner and a three-time America East Defensive Player of the Year. Blakely also earned First-Team All-America East and America East All-Defensive First Team accolades three times during his career at Vermont. Winner of the 2010 State Farm College Slam Dunk Championship, Blakely averaged 17.3 points (.542 FG%), 9.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 2.4 steals and 1.9 blocks in 35 games as a senior. He was named to the America East Conference All-Tournament Team and helped Vermont to school-record 25 wins in 2009-10. Blakely was actually the only player in NCAA men’s basketball to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals during the 2009-10 campaign.

QUOTES

RICK ADELMAN

"We played really well offensively the first half then they made their run and started making some shots. I loved the way our guys responded in the fourth quarter. We turned it right back around again so it was a good way to finish the season. Guys should be proud of themselves."

(Didn't want to leave a bad taste after tonight?): "I really wanted to see us respond. They were playing well and Beasley got hot and everybody started scoring but we were able to kind of adjust and put Chase on him and go a little bit smaller on him. I was trying to get to the fourth quarter because I had both Patrick and Chuck with four fouls and I wanted to get to the fourth quarter and then the made their run. In the fourth quarter Chuck pretty much guarded him and that helped us to end the game that way."

"I just enjoy these guys so much, I look at tonight. We scored 121 pts and had 32 assists, really unselfish again tonight. I just love the way that they finished the season, just like they've been doing all year, we could've caved in a couple of times and we never did it, all year long, and we've lost a tough game against Dallas the other night, we lost two tough games last week and we finished the season on a good note."

KEVIN MARTIN

"It was time to dig down in and not go into summer with a loss and something you have to think about potentially for the next nine months.

Sum up of the season: "There was just a lot of fight from this team, from the coaches to the players. It was a great group of guys to play with."

On what this team needs moving forward: "We just need size, we just need to find us a somebody that draws, alternates some shots. Just get a presence down there. That's no disrespect from Chuck (Hayes) because he's an unbelievable player but he would love to play besides somebody with some size also so yeah that's something that we need."

BRAD MILLER

"Every year you always say its an interesting year, you never know what to expect, I never expected this but the guys that are here I had a lot of fun with and obviously playing the whole year for Rick (Adelman). You know who knows what's going to happen with that situation, I know everyone here wants him back so we'll just have to wait and see on that

CHASE BUDINGER

"When I caught the ball and made some moves you know I was open enough and I just let it go and it was nothing but net so you know when you get that feeling it just feels great out there."

"It was kind of up and down at the beginning of the year, you know we had a lot of problems at the beginning of the year winning games and going on big losing streaks. You know I think when we did a real good job was after the All-Star break was to come together as a team and start playing well."

Timberwolves Coach Kurt Rambis

"Obviously not the way we wanted to end the season but I admire the guys fight in the second half. We just couldn't find the defensive energy in the 1st half to get ourselves going. I think that was evident in the 2nd half when we came back from 20pts down to make a ball game out of it. We had opportunities and just couldn't sustain that type of effort."

"I thought a lot of our guys had good ball games tonight. I think you could see the potential that is on this team with the players."

"We didn't finish the year the right way in terms of having the type of energy it takes to play against the type of opponents that we played against after the All Star break. The vast majority of the teams were getting themselves prepared mentally and physically for the playoffs. It was an opportunity for our guys to see what that type of team, those type of players are like and the type of mental and physical preparation that they are getting themselves ready for going into the playoffs."

"I am going to hold on to the fact that there were a hole lot of positive things that happened this season. Obviously, the record was atrocious. Nobody feels good about that but there was probably a 3 1/2 month stretch during the season that we were playing some really good basketball and we started to grow and blossom as a ball club."

Anthony Tolliver

On whether he saw improvement: "Of course, there was a lot of steps that we made in the right direction, but it's one thing we've got to continue to make steps this summer individually and look at ourselves in the mirror and say what can I do differently so this type of season won't happen again. That's the goal and we're just going to try and come back next year with a vengeance."

On offseason plans: "Work my tail off. That's what I do during the season, offseason. Anytime. That's what I do."

On recreational interests: "I'm just a basketball junkie. I'm in the gym all the time, just hanging out with friends other than that. I might pick up golf a little bit."

Luke Ridnour

"Like Kurt said, just try to be positive. A lot of guys played well individually, we just didn't play well as a team. The biggest thing with this team is getting to play defense. If we can play defense, we'll win a lot more games."

"We had stretches where we played well, but stretches don't get you wins in this league. There's no moral victories either. I don't like hearing that stuff either. Yeah, you played well but we have 17 wins. At the end of the day, that's what I look at."

On his offseason plans: "I live on the water, so I spend a lot of time on the water with my family. I can't wait to get to be a full-time dad."

On how a potential lockout changes the offseason: "It's going to be interesting. I think as players we have to prepare the same way that we're going to be back in October or September. If that's not the case, just keep playing, but it'll be interesting."

Michael Beasley

On whether their losing streak stunts momentum going into next year: "I mean, it hurts. It definitely hurts. As far as stunting our momentum, no, not at all. I feel like we can take a lot from this season. We fought hard I feel like. We had a lot of ups. We battled a lot of teams. A lot of the best teams we battled. We learned a lot. It's a lot we can take from this season and apply to next season. We've just got to work hard this summer."

On whether he believes in the future for Minnesota: "Definitely. I like to believe I'm a part of the future here. Next year's going to be better. I'll put it on my back."

On specifics learned during this season: "Keep your head up. Just keep going. Keep on keeping on. It was a long season, no doubt about it, but we came in here, we practiced hard, we played hard, we just couldn't put it together. I feel like next season, the same thing, it's going to be a lot better. Our rookies got a lot of experience this year. Wes been a beneficial of that. We worked hard this year, we're going to work hard this summer and we're going to come back next year much stronger."

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