Our Minnesota Timberwolves traveled to Houston to take on the Rockets Friday night. Both teams are dealing with a slew of injuries, but only one of them was clinching a playoff spot with a victory on Friday. Dwight Howard returned to action in the Rockets’ last game, but Houston also lost Patrick Beverley. With that, Kevin McHale’s starting lineup included Jason Terry, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Josh Smith, and Howard. Flip Saunders countered his coaching buddy with Lorenzo Brown, Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, Adreian Payne, and Gorgui Dieng.
As you may have been able to predict given those starting lineups, the Wolves were overmatched largely throughout. The Rockets came out flying all over the court, opening up a quick 11-2 run and leading to an early timeout from Flip. Minnesota scored the next six points, but the Rockets answered with a few three pointers. It turned into a playground game for the final eight minutes of the first quarter – a good number of turnovers, steals, loose balls, etc.
Looking for a bright spot on the Wolves (outside of Wiggins) and look no further than Chase Budinger, who was 2-2 from the field for five points in five minutes on the court. Entering Friday night’s action, Chase had scored in double digits in each of the past seven games.
At the end of the first quarter, the Rockets held a 31-22 advantage. At the end of the first half, the Rockets held a 10 point lead, 60-50.
- Rockets’ announcer on Wiggins, “He’s the future of the league”. (True story) Wiggins got to the line 12 times (9 makes) in the first half. That’s unreal!
- Ugly basketball, as the Rockets had 13 turnovers and the Pups had 8 of their own
- Wolves were killed on the boards, as Houston held a 22-10 advantage
After struggling from the field in the first half, James Harden exploded in the third quarter, hitting his first four three point attempts coming out of the locker room. When it looked like the Wolves might pack it up, a spark from LaVine and Payne led an 11-3 run to cut the lead to single digits, forcing Kevin McHale to get out of his seat while on the sideline … the horror.
At the end of the third quarter, the Rockets maintained a ten point lead, 90-80. Both teams put up 30 points in the quarter, led by James Harden who had already gone over 30 points in the game before the final quarter even began.
Every single, small run that the Wolves went on was met with a barrage of three pointers from the Rockets. In the end, the Timberwolves simply didn’t have enough firepower to stay with one of the better teams in the NBA. With the victory, the Rockets are now officially in the playoffs.
The final score, Rockets 120 – Timberwolves 110
A few notes from the game:
- A somewhat quiet double-double for Gorgui Dieng, who finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds
- Wiggins finished with 31 points, while Budinger finished with a season high 23 points
- The Rockets attempted 44 three point field goals (ridiculous) and they made 20 of them (also ridiculous)