Rockets Too Much For Shorthanded Wolves in 107-92 Win

Rockets Handle Shorthanded Wolves, Win 107-92

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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The Timberwolves looked like they had more suit coats than jerseys on their bench Monday night at Target Center. Facing a streaking Houston Rockets team at home, the Wolves had five players unavailable and only nine players in uniform due to injury and illness.

And in the third quarter, it caught up to them.

Minnesota battled all night, took its first lead late in the third quarter and extended its advantage to as many as five points, but in the end Houston took advantage of the Wolves hampered lineup and came away with a 107-92 victory.

Playing with three guards and no small forward, coach Rick Adelman and his staff mixed and matched its lineup. Five players played 33 minutes or more, and by the time Minnesota took its five-point lead in the third it looked like the Timberwolves could in fact overcome their shorthanded bench.

But Houston responded with a 18-1 run extending to the 9:40 mark of the fourth, all but putting the game out of reach and giving the Rockets (10-7) their seventh straight win.

“It’s tough—we’re a little shorthanded right now,” guard Wayne Ellington said. “Collectively, I think we’ve got to come together and help each other out, bounce back as a team. We’ll be getting guys healthy soon, so we’re working toward that.”

Wes Johnson was a late scratch Monday with flu-like symptoms, while JJ Barea (ankle), Michael Beasley (foot), Brad Miller (knee), Martell Webster (back) and Malcolm Lee (knee) were unavailable. Throughout the first three quarters, Minnesota battled through Houston’s runs that included a Rockets lead as big as 12 points and 10 separate occasions where the Wolves cut Houston’s lead to three points or fewer.

By the midway point of the third, Minnesota was in striking distance. A Kevin Love dunk cut Houston’s lead to 1, and Love followed it up with a free-throw on their next possession to tie the game at 63-63. After Ridnour tied the game again at 65-65, Love gave Minnesota its first lead of the night with a 3-pointer at the 3:58 mark.

“We climbed our way back in, like we usually do,” Love said. “We went on our runs. It’s a game of runs. But they just outworked us.”

After Derrick Williams gave the Wolves a five point lead, Houston made its move. By the time that 4:30 stretch was over, the Wolves trailed 83-71.

“We got our (five) point lead in the third quarter, and then we just stopped,” Adelman said. “I don’t know if we got tired. We turned it over at the end of the third quarter, they took a five-point lead and they kind of stretched it out, and that was it. We just didn’t have enough energy at the end of the game.”

The Wolves (7-10) rotated their lineup to try and match Houston’s sharpshooting and quickness from the guard position, even playing guards Ellington, Luke Ridnour and Ricky Rubio at the same time for a smaller, quicker approach. But the Rockets’ back court was too much, as Kevin Martin finished with 31 points and Kyle Lowry finished with 16 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds.

Five Rockets players finished in double digit scoring.

“I don't know if (the Wolves) looked tired,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “We just looked fresh.”

Love led the way for the Wolves on the night with 39 points and 12 rebounds. He finished 5-for-5 from 3-point range, which tied his season high for most 3-pointers in a contest.

Ridnour finished with 17 points and eight assists on the night, and Rubio continued his stretch of strong passing and stingy defense by contributing 12 assists and three steals. He had six points in the game.

Minnesota has an off day before traveling to Dallas for a matchup with the Mavericks on Wednesday. That gives the Wolves time to regain some depth in their lineup.

“Obviously we miss Wes, we miss Martell, we miss JJ, we miss Mike. We miss everybody that’s out,” Love said. “When we’re at full strength, we’re a lot better. We just didn’t have it. We turned the ball over, we made too many mistakes. We had our opportunities to put them in a hole, but it was the other way around.”

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