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Tuesday January 31, 2012 0:03 AM

Wolves Take Bite Out Of Rockets

Minnesota's offense erupts, dooms Houston to 120-108 defeat

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com




HOUSTON - Kevin Martin said the Rockets got “outmanned.”

Kevin McHale labeled his club’s defensive performance “ludicrous” and the worst of the season.

Needless to say, then, none of the superlatives that had been used to describe the Rockets’ recent run of winning play could be found Monday night as the Minnesota Timberwolves torched Houston 120-108 at Toyota Center.

The Rockets’ loss represented a definite step back for a team that had been showing signs of progress on the defensive end of late. During the club’s back-to-back blowout victories against Washington and New York over the weekend, defense had been Houston’s calling card, holding both the Wizards and Knicks below 40 percent shooting while limiting each to fewer than 85 points. Against Minnesota, however, the Rockets permitted nearly half of that 85-point total in a single quarter, conceding an eye-popping 42 points to the Timberwolves in the decisive third period.

Overall, Houston allowed opponent season highs in points scored, field goal percentage against (.581) and free throws made (28-31). To be sure, the Timberwolves stand as a significantly better offensive team than both New York and Washington, but McHale believes his team’s defensive failings Monday night went far deeper than something that could simply be attributed to a step up in class.

“It might have been a step up in class but it surely was a step down in our effort and our seeing what was happening, running our schemes and doing what we need to do to win games,” he said immediately after the game. “We just made a lot of mistakes defensively and we were not in tune right from the start of that game. To give up 120 points, that’s ludicrous.”

Credit, too, must go to a Minnesota team that was firing on all cylinders for much of the evening. The game got off to a somewhat sluggish start as both teams showed signs of possible fatigue – the Timberwolves from playing the night before and Houston from playing its third game in four nights – but rapidly turned into a shootout with shots raining in from all over toward the end of the first quarter. And by the time the second stanza began the contest had all the defensive intensity and focus of an All-Star game as both teams took turns taking the ball out of the net after made shots seemingly every trip down the floor.

No one, however, was hotter than Michael Beasley, who hit five of his first six shots and never cooled off on his way to enjoying what was far and away his best effort of the season to date. By halftime, Beasley had come off the Timberwolves’ bench to score 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting, doing much of his damage on perimeter jumpers that the Rockets were likely content with him taking, figuring it would only be a matter of time before the fire emanating from his fingertips would extinguish itself. As it turned out, however, the real inferno had yet to even be experienced.

The irreparable damage occurred in the fateful third quarter, when Beasley’s prodigiously talented teammates Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio joined in on his flame throwing act. Rubio, in particular, took over the reins of the game, shredding the Rockets’ defense with his penetration, exquisite passing and, yes, even his shooting. The Wolves’ rookie sensation hit all four of his third quarter shots, two of which came from beyond the arc, on his way to tallying 12 points in the quarter. And when Rubio wasn’t scoring himself, he was busy setting up his teammates, dishing off for five of his game-high 11 assists in the frame.

When the dust settled, it was difficult to determine which Minnesota player boasted the better stat line: Beasley with his 34 points on 10-14 shooting (and career-best 12-12 from the line); Rubio with his 18 points, 11 assists and 8 rebounds; or Love with his customary monster night of 29 points and 7 boards. This much, however, was crystal clear: For all the progress the Rockets had made in recent weeks on the defensive end, there is undoubtedly much more work to be done.

“I use the word outmanned,” said Martin, who bounced back from missing the past two games by scoring a team-high 29 points. “They’re a talented group of kids over there and Rubio came in tonight and played like a man; Beasley came in and played like a man; Love came in and played like a man – and they outmanned us the whole night.”

QUOTES

KEVIN MCHALE

We never found anything defensively. They shot 58 percent, they had a 42-point third quarter – we never found anything defensively we could hang our hat on. We never found a rhythm. Give credit to them, they went out there and made shots. Beasley, we never did find a way to slow him down. We just never could get stops and we got outrun. Just felt like one of those games where we got stuck in the mud a little bit on the defensive end. We fouled them way too much; we kept reaching in late … The third is when the game was lost. We gave up 42 points and that’s just ridiculous.

(Kyle not as aggressive): We’ve got to make sure he stays aggressive. We need him out there doing all the things he does well; he can rebound, he can defend, he’s got to get up into people, make shots, take it to the hole, make plays and just all the things he can do. We need everybody on board. Tonight was just the fact our defense was terrible.

(on what to do differently against Beasley): Well, not foul him (for starters). Make him take some shots, maybe push him to his right hand. We needed our help to come over; our help was late a couple times. He beat us on some drives where we got on our toes. Basically with Beasley you’ve got to keep him in front of you and make him make shots but I tell you what, that’s like everybody in the league. You keep them in front of you and make them make shots over the top. He made a couple shots early and got going and it was just hard for us to stop. It was just one of those nights where we did not defend at all as a team.

(had played better on defense over the weekend – why the regression?): It might have been a step up in class but it surely was a step down in our effort and our seeing what was happening, running our schemes and doing what we need to do to win games. We just made a lot of mistakes defensively and we were not in tune right from the start of that game. To give up 120 points, that’s ludicrous.

COURTNEY LEE

(on how to bounce back from this): I think in practice when we watch film we’ve got to be honest with ourselves and hold each other accountable. If we see a mistake we have to point it out; we can’t just say, well, we’ll get it right the next time because if we keep doing that we’re just going to continue to get down in the hole and let teams build big leads and sit there having to fight back in the second half.

KEVIN MARTIN

(on the defensive issues): I use the word outmanned. They’re a talented group of kids over there and Rubio came in tonight and played like a man; Beasley came in and played like a man; Love came in and played like a man – and they outmanned us the whole night.

CHASE BUDINGER

(On how disappointing the loss is) “It is very tough. Especially because we've been making strides on the defensive end and we just didn't bring it tonight. We let them get way too many easy baskets. We pretty much let them do anything they wanted to do.”

(On whether the win-loss pattern is frustrating) “It's very frustrating. It is a total team letdown tonight. We just didn't bring it with our energy and our defensive stance to win all the games. We got to bring that each and every night.”

KYLE LOWRY

(On the Rockets problems defensively) “They (Minnesota) made some shots tonight. We've got to make adjustments in the game.”

(On the problems Rockets had guarding Michael Beasley) “You just got to make adjustments. You've got to do something different. If a guy gets it going, we've got to figure out something to stop him from getting going.”

CHANDLER PARSONS

(On the Rockets defensive problems) “It was 100 percent about defense. Giving up 42 points in the third quarter is way too much, embarrassing honestly. They (Timberwolves) played well but we definitely... it was all about us tonight and what we were going to do. We didn't execute defensively and we didn't get enough stops to come close to winning the game.”

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES COACH RICK ADELMAN

(On the game) “It was just a great win, our guys (Wolves) after playing last night, came out with a lot of energy. Played well at the end of the first half, we were only two down. We took them (Rockets) out of what they wanted to do. It just shows that we can be a pretty darn good team.”

(On Wolves efficiency in the second half) “Michael (Beasley) really got it going for us. We had a mismatch with him and we really moved the ball well. It was just a solid win. We (Wolves) didn’t try to attack with just one pass. We moved the ball form side-to-side, and we got to the basket. It was really just a good team win, a lot of guys contributed.”

RICKY RUBIO

(On the game) “We came out with a lot of energy and played hard in the second half. Good things happen and open up when I can get inside. We rebounded, ran and pushed the ball up the court. (Michael) Beasley came off the bench and had a lot of good looks and was hitting his shots. It was a good team effort.”

KEVIN LOVE

(On his teams play) “We felt we could get a bucket whenever we wanted. He (Rubio) really got us going and was making all the right plays. He made plays, hit his shots and got us in up-tempo where we can be the best. We have a lot of guys that can contribute and have big games every night. We wanted to start the second half like we ended the first half. It was a good effort by the whole team. It was fun basketball and we did all the little things to get the job done.”

MICHAEL BEASELEY

(On his play) “I think it started with the last game, those are the things I have to do, my jump-shot is good and I need to get to the free throw line. It was a great game, it was nice to contribute and get the win, now I am the spark plug off the bench, and I am okay with that. I am helping the team a lot.”

NOTES

Houston dropped a 120-108 decision to Minnesota tonight, as the Timberwolves set opponent season highs in points scored, field goal percentage (.581, 43-74 FG) and free throws made (.903, 28-31 FT).

Minnesota hit 15-of-24 (.625) from the field for a franchise-best 42 third-quarter points (prev. high: 41 in 2000). It also stands as the most points scored in any quarter by a Houston opponent this season (prev. best: 41 in 1st Q by Clippers at Los Angeles on 1/4/12).

The Rockets had their streak of consecutive games of double-digit leads snapped at 13 in a row (1/7/12-1/28/12), which was Houston’s longest run since a 20-game streak back in 2007-08 (2/2/08-3/16/08).

Houston lost its first game this season when scoring at least 100 points. The Rockets had won their first seven games in 2011-12 when reaching the century mark.

The Rockets, who recorded a season-best 33 second-quarter points vs. New York (1/28/12), rang up 32 points in the second stanza tonight to take a 56-54 lead into halftime.

Kevin Martin recorded 29 points (9-15 FG, 4-6 3FG, 7-11 FT) and three steals tonight. In his last five games played, Martin has notched 20-plus points in each outing (1/19/12-1/30/12), averaging 29.2 points (146 TP) on 53-of-106 (.500) shooting and going 20-of-46 (.435) from 3-point range over that timeframe.

Kyle Lowry bounced back with 11 points (5-10 FG), four boards, three assists and two steals tonight. Lowry had more field goals made tonight than the last three games combined (4-29 FG).

Samuel Dalembert made another four blocks tonight. Dalembert has now posted multiple-block performances in seven straight games (1/19/12-1/30/12). It stands as the longest such streak for the Rockets since an eight-game run by Yao Ming back in 2008-09 (3/4/09-3/18/09).

Goran Dragic topped the Rockets in assists for a third straight game with nine dimes off the bench tonight. Dragic also registered 16 points (6-8 FG) and a team-high five assists vs. New York (1/28/12), as well as a game-high seven assists vs. Washington (1/27/12).

Chase Budinger led the Rockets reserves with 13 points (5-9 FG) tonight, adding four boards and four assists. Budinger netted a team-high 21 points (8-14 FG, 4-6 3FG) vs. Washington (1/27/12) and a team-leading 19 points (7-12 FG, 2-4 3FG) vs. New York (1/28/12).

Michael Beasley finished with a season-high 34 points (10-14 FG), including a career-best 12-of-12 night from the free throw line. He surpassed his previous best of 24 points vs. Oklahoma City (12/26/11). Beasley, who scored 34 points (13-27 FG, 6-6 FT) last year at Minnesota (4/13/11), did not play in the prior meeting between these two teams at Minnesota (1/23/12).

Kevin Love, who had 39 points (13-19 FG, 5-5 3FG, 8-10 FT) and 12 boards in the last meeting at Minnesota (1/23/12), added 29 points (10-15 FG, 7-8 FT) and seven rebounds tonight.

Ricky Rubio posted a double-double of 18 points (6-10 FG, 2-3 3FG, 4-4 FT) and 11 assists to go with a career-high-tying eight rebounds (eight on 1/16/12 vs. Sacramento). Rubio also had a game-high 12 assists in the previous game at Minnesota (1/23/12).

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