Rick Adelman recorded his 800th career victory in the Houston Rockets’ last game, but it’s likely he has bigger goals in mind as his team continues its push for the playoffs.
Adelman and the Rockets look to improve their positioning in the West on Wednesday when they host one of the conference’s worst teams in the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Houston (48-23) is trying to win back-to-back games after going 2-3 since its 22-game winning streak from Jan. 29-March 16—the second-longest winning streak in NBA history.
The Rockets are coming off a 108-100 win over the Sacramento Kings on Monday, putting Adelman in an elite class of active coaches with 800 wins, joining Pat Riley, Phil Jackson, Jerry Sloan, Don Nelson and George Karl.
“I know that when you hit something like that, you really think about all the good things that happen to you,” said Adelman, who also coached Portland and Sacramento. “I have been really fortunate to have three different teams that are very, very good and that’s why you get wins like that.”
Rafter Alston scored 28 points and Tracy McGrady added 17 and six assists to lead the Rockets. Houston shot 50 percent and outscored Sacramento 33-11 at the free-throw line.
The Rockets are one of the worst free-throw shooting teams in the NBA at 72.3 percent, and their 33 made on Monday were a season high.
“It’s going to come down in games, especially in the playoffs, where you’ve got to make foul shots,” said McGrady, who was 7-for-9 on free throws to improve to 67.9 percent. “Tonight, we did a better job of concentrating on going up there and knocking them down.”
McGrady is averaging 19.2 points in the five games since the winning streak ended, but shooting just 36.3 percent. He averaged 22.1 points on 43.7 percent shooting during the streak.
The Rockets are still fighting for the top spot in the tight Western Conference race. After Wednesday’s contest they play their next five on the road, beginning with a matchup against San Antonio on Sunday. The four games after that, however, are against teams not currently in the playoff race.
Houston has 11 games remaining, with only five against teams currently with a winning record.
While the Rockets are trying to finish with the best record in the West, Minnesota (18-51) is trying to avoid finishing with the worst. The Timberwolves have won three of four and six of nine, including a 114-93 victory over the New York Knicks on Saturday.
They shot 53.2 percent and were never threatened after racing to a 42-24 lead after the first quarter.
The Timberwolves have the third-worst record in the West and one of the five worst records in the NBA. They said they want to finish strong, even if that hurts their chances for a higher draft pick.
“We ain’t trying to lose games for no pick or nothing,” Al Jefferson said. “We’re trying to win. We’re trying to fight it out. That’s what we doing.”
Minnesota has lost twice to the Rockets this season, including a 113-82 blowout in Houston on Jan. 11. McGrady missed that game while recovering from a bone bruise and injured tendons in his knee.