GameDay LIVE Blog: Wolves vs. Rockets | Feb. 10, 2014



Final: That's a wrap. The Wolves fall tonight 107-89 despite 31 points and 10 rebounds from Kevin Love, 15 more from Chase Budinger, 11 from Alexey Shved and 10 from Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. The Rockets got 20 from Chandler Parsons, 19 from James Harden, 18 from Dwight Howard and 14 from Patrick Beverley and Terrence Jones. More to come on Timberwolves.com later tonight. HOU 107, MIN 89

Q4 1:44: Tough fourth for the Wolves. They let Houston go on a 13-3 run to start the frame and really never looked back. It's currently a 22-9 fourth quarter edge for Houston, who will pick up the win here very shortly. Minnesota shot 4-of-19 in the first 10 minutes of this quarter. That won't get it done. HOU 104, MIN 87

Q4 8:43: So much for that. The Rockets just went on a 7-0 run to start this quarter off and are now up 89-78 with 8:43 to go. The Wolves cut it down but gave it right back. Quite a big hole to dig out of here as we keep rolling on. Minnesota went exclusively with its bench to start the fourth and looks like it will stick with them plus Love at the 5 for at least another couple minutes. HOU 89, MIN 78

End Q3: Here come the Wolves. Houston brought the lead up to as many as 15 in the third, but the Wolves went on a nice run to end the quarter and have themselves within four with 12 minutes to play. Love keeps doing his thing and is up to 29 points and seven boards--he's a perfect 12-of-12 from the line. Budinger has 13 points, Shved had 11 and Mbah a Moute has 10 on 5-of-6 shooting. Both Shved and Mbah a Moute have impressive dunks tonight. Meanwhile, the Rockets have 19 from Harden, 14 from Howard, 12 from Parsons, 11 from Beverley and 10 from Jones. HOU 82, MIN 78

Q3 8:13: The Wolves just handed out to consecutive wide-open 3-pointers to the Rockets, and Houston connected on both. It opened up a 79-64 lead with 8:13 left in the quarter. Tough shooting so far in the third by Minnesota, including a couple misses by Chase Budinger on similarly-open attempts. HOU 79, MIN 64

Halftime: Overall the Wolves are hanging tough here against a talented Rockets squad. They fell back early in the first but kept things close as we head into the break. It looked like the Wolves would cut it even further at the break as Luc Richard Mbah a Moute hit a putback layup, but at the buzzer James Harden hit a three to push the lead back up to nine. Much of that has to do with Kevin Love's exceptional performance--he's already got 23 points and four rebounds on 6-of-11 shooting and a perfect 10-of-10 from the line. Alexey Shved has been another important piece of the puzzle tonight--he's got 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting. Houston has four guys in double digits already, led by 12 from Harden, Howard and Parsons. The Rockets are shooting 53.5 percent and have a 32-18 edge in the paint. HOU 67, MIN 58

Q2 5:51: Alexey Shved is all of a sudden doing work. It's no secret he's had an up-and-down year, but tonight he's 2-for-2 from 3-point range and just threw down a monster dunk in traffic. Really good to see Shved being aggressive offensively and getting back on track. HOU 48, MIN 43

Q2 8:43: Shved, Barea and Cunningham are all on the board here in the second, highlighted by a driving floater layup by Barea moments ago and Shved's 3-pointer earlier in the quarter. The Wolves have a 6-2 run going early in the second, and they're within two after trailing by 12 in the first. HOU 36, MIN 34

End Q1: Lots of Kevin Love, guys. Lots of Kevin Love. If his quad injury is hurting him, he's not showing it. Love has 17 points and three boards after one on 4-of-7 shooting. He's 8-of-8 from the line, and he's doing all he can to keep Minnesota close here. Harden has 10 points, Parsons has seven, Jones and Beverley have six and Howard has three. HOU 34, MIN 28

Q1 2:03: Kevin Love just passed Doug West for fourth on the Wolves' all-time scoring list with his last basket, now with 4,618 points for his career. He's got 12 points and three assists tonight on 3-of-6 shooting and a perfect 6-of-6 from the line. But the Rockets had a 19-8 run going before that basket, and they opened up a game-high 12-point lead before Love brought it back to 10. Houston is still shooting 55 percent from the field. HOU 30, MIN 20

Q1 5:29: James Harden once again provided another example of his "it doesn't matter where I'm at on the court, I'm going to score" philosophy. He just drained a 28-footer that puts the Rockets up six midway through the first quarter. He's got five, while Terrence Jones and Patrick Beverley each have six. For the Wolves, Chase Budinger and Ricky Rubio each have 3-pointers and Love leads the team with eight points. The difference at the moment is Houston's 8-of-12 shooting and 8-4 edge in the paint. HOU 22, MIN 16

Starters:

Rockets:
PG-Patrick Beverley, SG-James Harden, SF-Chandler Parsons, PF-Terrence Jones, C-Dwight Howard

Wolves: PG-Ricky Rubio, SG-Chase Budinger, SF-Corey Brewer, PF-Kevin Love, C-Ronny Turiaf

PREGAME 6:45 PM: Wolves forward Chase Budinger had arguably his best overall game of the season on Saturday night, dropping 19 points on 6-of-12 shooting (3-of-6 from 3-point range) and hitting 4-of-5 free throws. It was opportune timing, as he jumped into the starting lineup for Kevin Martin on short notice after finding out that day K-Mart would miss time with a broken thumb.

Wolves acting-head coach Terry Porter said he expects the lineup to be the same tonight against the Rockets, meaning Budinger will be starting at the 2-guard spot for the injured Martin. It will be Budinger's first career game against Houston, the team he played three seasons for before coming to Minnesota last season.

“I mean, the way I feel, I always feel like if you get minutes, you can produce," Budinger said. "The type of player I am, if I get more minutes I can definitely produce more and I kind of showed that last game.”

Budinger said not having Adelman on the sideline tonight doesn't change the gameplan the team had coming in. It just means there will be a different person on the sideline calling plays. One thing that hasn't changed is the importance of victories each and every night this team gets on the court. Minnesota desperately needs to get on a winning streak sitting six games out of the playoffs with 31 games to play.

As for Budinger, he said he's just trying to do his part regardless of how many minutes he gets.

“I mean, the coaches know what kind of player I am," Budinger said. "I’ve played for them for multiple years now. You know, coach has done a good job of not playing me too much… Still trying to get into shape, get my legs back, its still cautious about that.”

PREGAME 6:05 PM: Wolves forward Kevin Love said Monday night around 5 p.m. that he would play tonight against the Houston Rockets. Love suffered a pretty sizable beating over the last week of games, and he needed to games off as a result. He missed Wednesday's game against Oklahoma City after a couple physical falls against the Lakers on Tuesday left him slowed down with, among other things, a stiff neck, then he missed Saturday's game against the Blazers after getting a knee in his quad from former Wolves center Greg Stiemsma.

"The rest did me some good," Love said. "I can bend the leg a little bit more. But I’m still not 100 percent, but I’m going to out there and give it a go."

Love tried to play on Saturday and even expected to until gametime, but during his pregame warmups he felt tightness in that leg and ultimately decided to give it some rest. He said he feels better today after extended rest, and he's in a better position to play tonight than he was on Saturday.

No question, the Wolves need him. Minnesota is playing a Rockets team that has won five straight and is playing some of its best basketball of the year. Love's 25.6 points and 13.3 rebounds per game will come in handy against a squad anchored by Dwight Howard up front and penetrates with guard James Harden's versatility. Given both Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin are not expected back tonight, Love is an important piece being added back into the starting five.

But like Love said, others must step up, too. The Wolves' bench did a good job of taking on the burden of facing Portland without Love, Pekovic and Martin, and that type of mentality will be needed against this streaking Houston club.

"I mentioned opportunity," Love said. "There have been a bunch of guys that stepped up, whether it’s the Oklahoma City game or the Portland game on Saturday, so it’s just continuing to keep fighting and bring that energy, and less minutes we can bring even more."

PREGAME 5:25 PM: A couple quick notes here before pregame coaching availability. One, Kevin Love said he will play tonight. More to come on that. Second, coach Rick Adelman will miss tonight's game due to personal reasons. Assistant coach Terry Porter will fill in tonight, and Adelman is expected back on Wednesday against the Nuggets. More to come on both of these stories soon.

PREGAME 3:15 PM: Welcome back to Target Center, folks, as the Wolves get set for tonight’s matchup against the Houston Rockets here in downtown Minneapolis. Tipoff is set for 7 PM on Fox Sports North, NBATV and 830 WCCO-AM. Now sitting three games under .500, the Wolves are hoping to try and pick up two home wins before the All-Star Break and put themselves in position to get back to the .500 mark right after the break. Easier said than done against the Rockets and Nuggets, but the Wolves really do need to make this happen.

Right now Kevin Love is questionable tonight, and as you know both Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic are also likely out until after the All-Star Break. That makes things a bit more challenging for Minnesota—especially with a rebounder like Dwight Howard coming to town. All hands on deck is an important philosophy when facing that type of presence inside.

But let’s talk for a minute about Rockets coach Kevin McHale, who is back in his home state tonight. McHale has put together a couple nice seasons coaching this Houston club, and as a Hall of Fame big man in this league he’s getting the opportunity to coach a throwback center like Howard. McHale is lauded by a few holdover members of this Timberwolves front office who were here when he was around as one of the all-time great storytellers. He displayed that again this morning at shootaround, not necessarily talking on the record about his time in Minnesota but sharing some fun behind-the-scenes asides about old friends.

On the court, McHale is the type of guy that brings the old-school approach to coaching back to a new-age league. The NBA is full of metrics, advanced statistics and, at times, ego-boosting to the point of coaching philosophies not mirroring the styles displayed by Pat Riley, K.C. Jones and Chuck Daly in the 1980s.

McHale, according to Rockets guard James Harden, brings that type of mentality back to this league.

“He cuts off the old cloth,” Harden said at shootaround. “He’s going to tell you stories about what he used to do and, you know, how he played and how we need to be more physical. He’s going to give it to you straight up. That’s the kind of leadership we need, especially the young guys—straight up and not sugarcoat anything to just go out there and get it done.”

McHale, of course, was in the Timberwolves’ front office from 1995-2008, but he also got his first two coaching stints with Minnesota. He finished off the 2004-05 season on the bench and led Minnesota to a 19-12 record, then took over for part of the 2008-09 season and went 20-43. That was Kevin Love’s rookie season, a player McHale drafted when he was in town.

Since leaving Minnesota, McHale is 113-86 with the Rockets.

“He’s done a good job,” Harden said. “He knows his players now. He knows how to put them in great positions to be successful, and we’re still learning as well. I’ve only been here a year and thus far, he’s done a pretty good job.”

Side note from McHale on Love (I’m working on a bigger feature about the evolution of the power forward position for All-Star Weekend), he said despite knowing Love would be a solid pro even he didn’t know K-Love would develop into the player he is today.

“I don’t think anybody did,” McHale said. “If anyone drafted somebody besides LeBron tell you they saw this coming is lying to you. Everybody lies in this business.”

McHale said he thought Love would be a double-double guy, but he’s taking his game to another level. High praise coming from one of the best and most successful power forwards of all time.

“Having to play Kevin Love tonight, his 3-point shot, his ability to spread the floor concerns you,” McHale said.

Here are a few pregame notes to browse as we get set for tonight:

  • The Wolves trail in the all-time series 38-60, and are 23-27 at home. The Rockets have won three of the last four meetings; prior to that the Wolves had won three straight in the series. Houston made 17 treys en route to winning the 2013-14 series opener, 112-101, at Toyota Center on Nov. 23.

  • Wolves Notes

  • Kevin Love has recorded three straight games with at least 17 attempted free throws, the longest such streak in the NBA since Shaquille O’Neal recorded three straight from Dec. 4-9, 1993. The last four-game streak with 17+ FTAs was recorded by Wilt Chamberlain from Nov. 12-17, 1964. Only two other four-game streaks have been recorded since the start of the 1963-64 season (Chamberlain: Jan. 24-28, 1964; Oscar Robertson: Feb. 15-19, 1964).

  • Love has tallied a league-high 14 games this season with 25+ points and 15+ rebounds. This season Love leads the league in double-doubles (42), 20/10 games (31) and 30/10 games (11).

  • Love has recorded four straight 25/15 games -- tied for the longest such streak in the last 24 seasons (Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan, Shawn Marion). The last player to record more than four straight 25/15 games was Charles Barkley (6 straight) in the 1989-90 season.

  • Ricky Rubio is averaging 18.3 points in the last three games, including scoring a career-high 25 points on Saturday. He ranks 1st in the NBA in steals (2.49 spg) and 4th in assists (8.2 apg).

  • Over his last 22 games, Corey Brewer is shooting 52.4% from the floor, including 36.4% from three-point range. Brewer had shot just 42.2% (27.3% from three-point range) over his first 28 games this season. He has scored in double-digits in his last four games, including a game-high 26 points on Saturday, averaging 15.8 ppg on 54.0% (27-for-50) shooting over that stretch.

  • Ronny Turiaf has started the last seven games, averaging 6.5 points, on 63.9% (17-for-29) shooting, 7.1 rebounds and 2.57 blocks over that span.

  • Rockets Notes

  • The Rockets have won their last five games and are in 5th place in the Western Conference, 1/2 game behind the Clippers. Houston is 13-10 on the road this season, 8-7 vs. the West.

  • Houston is averaging 108.6 points and shooting 50.8% (196-for-396) over its five-game winning streak. The Rockets have won their last 12 games when scoring at least 100 points.

  • The Rockets rank 4th in the NBA in points (105.3 ppg), 5th in field goal percentage (47.3%), and 3rd in blocked shots (5.82 bpg). James Harden is 8th in scoring (23.7 ppg) and 2nd in minutes (38.5 mpg). Dwight Howard is 4th in rebounds (12.4 rpg), 4th in FG% (57.9%) and 9th in blocks 1.76 bpg).

  • Dwight Howard has scored 20+ points in each of the last five games, averaging 26.2 ppg on 58.9% (43-for-73) shooting over that stretch. Howard ranks 3rd in the NBA with 33 double-doubles. The last time a Rockets player collected 40 double-doubles in a season was Charles Barkley (42) in 1997-98.

  • Jeremy Lin is averaging 16.0 ppg, on 50.0% (30-for-60) shooting, 4.8 rebounds and 6.2 assists over the last five games.



  • For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter.