Recap: Rockets at Timberwolves, January 23, 2012
Monday January 23, 2012 11:24 PM
Rockets Run Win Streak To Seven
Lowry's triple-double, big effort from bench lift Houston to 107-92 win over Wolves
HOUSTON - This is what the Rockets had been waiting for.
Nearly a month into the regular season, it had become clear enough that Houston had a strong starting five. What it had yet to prove, however, was that its bench could come in and keep the good vibes going. Far too often early on, the Rockets would see their starters build a lead only to then watch it rapidly slip away when the reserves entered the game. The inevitable result: an increased workload for the club’s big guns and increasing signs of fatigue late in games; an unsettling combination during a compressed schedule that had already promised to test each and every team’s physical limits.
There are signs, however, that a new trend is beginning to emerge in Houston. Saturday night, the Rockets’ second unit played a pivotal part in a huge OT win over the Spurs. Just 48 hours later, they were even more emphatic in announcing their arrival, sparking a spectacular 19-1 second-half run that helped lift Houston to a 107-92 victory over Minnesota.
Make no mistake, Houston’s starting five once again did yeoman’s work in making sure the team stretched its win streak to seven games. Kyle Lowry contributed to his All-Star campaign with his second career triple-double; an event that was a long time coming given his near nightly flirtation with that particular statistical benchmark this season. Lowry finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists and clearly got the better of his high-profile individual matchup with Minnesota’s rookie sensation Ricky Rubio. Kevin Martin was similarly massive, scoring a team-high 31 points on just 21 shots from the field. Samuel Dalembert did the dirty work down low collecting 15 rebounds. And Luis Scola and Chandler Parsons each made key contributions with their endless energy and intelligent play.
But this game truly turned late in the third quarter when the Timberwolves appeared ready to potentially run the Rockets out of the gym. With an offense suddenly stagnant and handicapped by a rash of turnovers, Houston saw its double-digit lead completely erased as Minnesota, led by a brilliant night from Kevin Love (39 points, 12 rebounds), assumed a 70-65 lead. Shortly thereafter, Rockets Head Coach Kevin McHale made the critical decision to go small, pairing key reserves Goran Dragic, Patrick Patterson and Courtney Lee with starters Lowry and Parsons. A similar lineup had paid dividends against the Spurs Saturday night. What followed, however, was above and beyond anything even the ever-optimistic McHale could have hoped to see.
Put simply, that quintet positively wreaked havoc in the best possible way. They locked in defensively, got stops, forced turnovers by the bushel and, as a result, raced out in transition, transforming Houston’s short-lived deficit into a commanding lead the Rockets would not come close to relinquishing. They were devastatingly destructive to the Timberwolves’ attack, employing the sort of eye-opening defense Houston has yearned to possess and partner with its already potent offense.
All told, it was an extraordinarily impressive display from Houston’s second unit. Lee and Dragic were relentless in their harassing and hounding of Minnesota’s perimeter players while Patterson showed flashes of the form that made him such a handful for opponents last season. Slowly but surely his athleticism is returning and its impact is colossal when paired with his intelligent all-around game – a fact to which the Timberwolves can now attest.
To that end, it was telling when former Rockets coach and Minnesota’s current bench boss Rick Adelman praised Houston for having a “deep team” after the game. The Rockets came into the season believing that to be true; now they’re actually proving it. And the results speak for themselves.
We were able to get some stuff going with that small lineup. Our defense picked up and we had a little bit of momentum. We got a little stutter-ish with the ball, defensively, in the third for awhile and then we really got after it in against that small unit and pushed it up and got some pace in the game. Got the court spread. We just have the tendency to play on top of each other sometimes.
It seemed like it was different people all game?
It's someone different all the time, like tonight we got a nice lift out of Patrick Patterson he gave us a lift, Goran Dragic was fantastic. K Mart carried us in the 1st half; Sam Dalembert got a ton of rebounds. It was just a good game and we overcame a hell of a performance by Kevin Love who was just again phenomenal and making shots and just played really well.
Has to feel good winning in return?
Feels as good as the last one brother and hopefully will feel as good as the next one.
Down the stretch did Minnesota tire?
I don't know if they looked tired, I thought we looked fresh.
Have you been rejuvenated coaching again?
It's fun; it's why you do it. Like I said, the day I quit getting butterflies before the game and feeling like you're in the fight, then I'll quit coaching and go fishing, I don't feel like going fishing anymore.
You were laughing during the boo's, were you expecting that?
No, someone said something to me and I just started chucking. It was about that.
Did it feel to be in the visiting locker-room?
Yeah, Different. Its small, I'll tell you what, we're cramped over here. 1st time I've been in there. I've been in the room over here in the equipment room to talk to the trainer, but the 1st time I've been in there, it's tight.
(on the Rockets’ mentality): Just stay calm. We’re playing against the best players in the world; they’re going to make runs, they’re going to hit tough shots. So just stay calm and stick to our principals and win games on the defensive end. No matter whether we’re shooting the ball well or shooting the ball bad, we believe we can still win games. We’re going to win games with stops and that’s what we’ve been doing the last seven games.
On the 19-1 run by the Rockets....
"We pushed the tempo back and keep it going and made some shoots to finish it off strong."
On Kevin Martin first half scoring...
"When he get in one of those mood and rhythms, he is one of those guys that is hard to stop. Once he got it going we happily gave it to him and let him keep going."
On getting the win...
"It is always a good team win when there is balance scoring and everyone is contributing to a win like that, especially coming up against a tough minded team with an all-star and a great coach. To come up here and get a win it was definitely important away from home.
On 7 straight wins...
"We are aware of the streak, we are playing well right now and we want that to keep going. It does not matter who we play we just want to get better as a team and enjoy it."
On controlling run...
"We just stuck with it, during every game there are runs but you have to sustain them and that's what we did everybody played great today."
WOLVES COACH RICK ADELMAN
"I just didn't think we played well enough, even in the 1st half, and then we got the five point lead in the 3rd quarter and then we just stopped. I don't know if we got tired? We turned it over at the end of the 3rd quarter and they got the five point lead and then stretched it out and that was it. We just didn't have enough energy at the end of the game."
(on guys getting tired)
"We only had nine guys and I only had three guards and no small forwards. We tried to adjust but we were putting people out of position. They spread the court and have three guards and active forwards and we just didn't have enough answers, we tried. We made too many mistakes, too many mental mistakes. I thought we were pretty much in control in that 3rd quarter and we turned it over two or three times and the game just changed. Once they got the ten point lead, it was really difficult to come back at that point. We didn't have enough to make any kind of run at that point."
(on Derrick Williams playing the small forward)
"We are out there with different line-ups and that is what makes it hard. We're shifting around trying to figure out how we are going to be effective. I thought (Derrick Williams) worked at it, he tried. He tried to attack the basket, if he is going to play that spot, he has to get around the basket and he has to make them pay around the basket. They did a nice job at the end of the 3rd quarter and 4th quarter of spreading us out. They have a lot of ball handlers and just kept attacking us."
"We didn't play Kevin (Martin) as smart as we probably should or maybe we will next time. I thought we gave him too many angles. You have to get up on him, I would think our guys would know that he's a three point shooter. We went to a zone and had our hands down and just let him shoot it. They are good players (Martin and Kyle Lowry), very good players. Kyle had a triple-double and he is capable of that all the time. They took us apart in the 4th quarter."
(on Goran Dragic)
"He's a good player. He played for us after we made the trade last year. Kyle went down for a few games late in the year and he played well. I really like him. He's got talent and learned a lot from Steve Nash when he played behind him. He is kind of relentless, he and Kyle are kind of the same way. They keep attacking and keep attacking. They have a deep team."
"We were just sloppy, wasn't really anything they did, we were just careless with the ball; trying to go for the home run passes, just careless with the ball. We moved the ball around, couple extra passes, hit the man and make the simple play, we were good. We had lapses tonight where we didn't do that."
On playing so many minutes...
"Yeah, I've been battling a sickness the past couple of days. But the minutes don't bother me, I feel in great baseketball shape. Just having a little sickness doesn't help."
On being in shape in the third quarter...
"We definitely felt that way; we climbed our way back in the game. We fought like we usually do, we go on our runs- it's a game of runs and they just out worked us. They shot themselves out of that zone. Had a few big buckets from Patterson right in the lane, got easy buckets in transition and we just weren't ourselves tonight."
On the fourth quarter defense...
"Man, we just couldn't get a stop when we needed it. They went small with a couple of guards and they attacked us. They had us on our heals and we never really gained control and never really got the momentum."
On Houston bringing in small guards like the Timberwolves do...
"Yeah they did, it was a tough match up for us and also didn't help that we couldn't really hit much from the perimeter to help us bounce back so, it was a tough one for us."
On playing short-handed...
"Yea it's tough, we're a little short-handed right now. Collectively, that's where we got to come together and help each other out and bounce back a team. We'll be getting guys healthy soon, so we're looking forward to that."
On his first start but still losing the game...
"YeaH it was cool to get my first start, but at the same time we got a lot of people that are hurt and still injured. Today was just, the whole game we couldn't get stops; couldn't make shots, the whole game was sloppy for us."
On not holding the lead...
"YeaH today, like I said, was pretty sloppy. We couldn't get stops on the defensive end and they went small on us too. They had a lot of guards out there. At one point they had four guards and a big man so... It makes it tough on the defense when they have a lot of guards out there. But like I said, you've got to get stops in this league. It really doesn't help that we had nine players tonight, but it's no excuse and they out played us."
On finding out about Wes Johnson's illness and starting tonight...
"We all found out a couple minutes before the game and he wasn't at shoot around today, but we all found out a couple minutes before the game and that's when I found out that I was going to start. I thought I did pretty well, especially because I haven't really been playing the three much. Overall, it takes a lot away from that."