Monday night showcased the return of former Pups GM and Coach Kevin McHale to Target Center. The game was the much-anticipated reunion game of the Pups team coached by Rick Adelman (who formerly coached the Houston Rockets) and the Houston Rockets team coached by McHale. The Rockets entered the game as the NBA’s hottest team, riding a 6 game winning streak. The Pups entered the game as one of the most interesting, but inconsistent, teams in the league. The Pups demonstrated each of these attributes on Monday night. Regrettably, only Kevin Love showed up to play for the Pups.
Derrick Williams made his NBA starting debut due to Wes Johnson’s illness. He made a strong move to the basket in the first 15 seconds of the game, which he could not finish, setting the tone for the Pups’ night. The Pups missed an astonishing 13 of 23 opportunities at the rim in the first half. Williams finished the game with 11 points on 3-11 shooting with 7 rebounds, 4 turnovers, and a -11 +/- in 37 minutes. The Pups missed their first 5 shots on their way to yet another slow start. The Pups’ guards were abysmal in the first quarter, not scoring a single point in the first 11 minutes, and were outscored 15-1 by the Rockets’ guards in the first quarter. The Darko of old reappeared tonight, bringing a new haircut and little else to the arena. Houston 28, Pups 19 after one quarter.
Houston’s guards, led by Kevin Martin, continued to dismantle the Pups’ defense in the 2nd quarter. Martin finished the first half with 21 points, and the Rockets’ guards outscored the Pups’ guards 32-10 in the first half on their way to a 54-47 lead at the half. The Pups continued to miss easy opportunities and open looks. KLove kept the Pups close on 19 first half points, including 3-3 on threes, and 7 rebounds. Anthony Randolph added 7 points and 5 rebounds. Randolph played like a man possessed in the quarter, but added only 2 points and no boards the rest of the game. The Pups clawed back to trail by only 3 late in 2nd quarter, but Houston answered with a 7-0 run, leading 54-47 at the half.
Led by KLove’s 13 3rd quarter points, the Pups surged to a 5 point lead late in the 3rd quarter (70-65). However, Houston closed the quarter on an 11-1 run to lead 76-71 at the end of the 3rd quarter. Playmaker Ricky Rubio had shooting struggles, but had 11 assists after 3 quarters. Milicic did nothing on either end of the court, and was outrebounded 15-3 by Samuel Dalembert (in 25 minutes) after 3 quarters. Mercifully, Milicic saw no action in the fourth quarter (which seemed to suit him just fine).
The Rockets outscored the Pups 31-21 in the 4th quarter to polish off the Pups 107-92. The Rockets finished the game on a 42-22 run with the Pups offering little resistance, committing 10 4th quarter turnovers and countless defensive breakdowns and poor decision-making. After beginning the game 1 of 5 shooting, KLove finished with 39 points on 13 of 19 shooting, including 5 of 5 on threes, with 12 rebounds. KLove’s strong play could not overcome the Rockets’ guards’ dominance of the Pups’ guards, who were outscored 70-27 in the game. Houston was led by Kevin Martin’s 31 points and Kyle Lowry’s 16 points. Lowry had a triple double, adding 10 rebounds and 10 assists. The Pups have not beaten the Rockets at Target Center in over 5 years, and tonight’s game showed no indication of this streak ending soon. At least Kevin McHale was able to coach a team to a win at Target Center.
Houston: Kevin Martin (31 pts); Kyle Lowry (16 pts, 10 rebounds, 10 assists); and Sam Dalembert (15 rebounds).
Pups: Kevin Love (39 pts, 12 rebounds).
Game Changer(s): Houston Rockets guards
Darko Milicic (4 points, 3 rebounds, soft play and zero energy); Ricky Rubio (2 of 10 shooting, 5 turnovers, with -19 +/-, 12 assists, but only 1 in 4th quarter; no bench contribution.
The Target Center fans booed Houston Rockets Coach Kevin McHale during pregame introductions. McHale is a native Minnesotan, former U of Minnesota All American basketball player, NBA All Time 50 Greatest Player, and former Pups GM and Coach. The fans’ lack of class and the players’ dismal effort and play (except KLove) showed that this entire operation has a long way to go.