Struggling Rockets right themselves vs. T’Wolves
“We’re at the point where we have to get wins where we can,” Rockets coach Rick Adelman said.
Kevin Martin(notes) had 30 points and Aaron Brooks(notes) added 25 points and nine assists for the Rockets. The game against Minnesota couldn’t have come at a better time for Houston, which had lost five of seven to fall to 10th place in the West since acquiring Martin in a trade with Sacramento.
But the Rockets hit 11 3-pointers and outrebounded the Timberwolves 49-40 to beat Minnesota for the 11th straight time.
“We’re right there in the playoff race,” Scola said. “From now on, every one of them is important.”
It was big for Houston (31-30), which has had difficulty integrating Martin and fellow newcomers Jordan Hill(notes) and Jared Jeffries(notes), who came from the Knicks in the Tracy McGrady(notes) trade.
“It’s been difficult,” Shane Battier(notes) said. “It’s not an excuse for our play, but it’s reality. It takes time and a lot of energy to integrate the new guys and let them know what our culture is about, how we play, what we expect.”
Kevin Love(notes) had 20 points and 11 rebounds and Ryan Gomes(notes) scored 17 for the Timberwolves, who have lost five in a row and 11 of their last 12. Minnesota has won one game since beating Memphis on Feb. 6.
The Timberwolves were without Al Jefferson(notes), who served the second of a two-game suspension after he was arrested for DWI early Sunday morning. Jefferson has typically feasted on the Rockets throughout his time in Minnesota, both when Yao Ming(notes) was roaming the paint and against Houston’s smaller front of Scola and Chuck Hayes(notes).
He had 26 points and a career-high 26 rebounds against the Rockets on Jan. 13, and the Wolves sorely missed his presence on the boards early.
Scola, the scrappy Argentinean, bullied the Timberwolves from the jump, grabbing 12 of Houston’s 22 rebounds in the first half and scoring 17 points to give the Rockets a 60-50 lead at halftime.
“Scola’s a terrific ballplayer,” Wolves coach Kurt Rambis said. “He really understands the game.”
The Rockets used an 18-1 burst spanning the first and second quarter to take control, then closed the third period with a 9-0 run to put the game out of reach.
“That’s been our Achilles’ heel all year long,” Love said of closing quarters. “We need to stop that, but it’s easier said than done.”
Minnesota has struggled to defend the perimeter all season long, and Brooks, Martin and Shane Battier had open looks all night long. Martin’s third 3 of the night came during a 15-2 run spanning the third and fourth periods that put the game away.
The Wolves went without a field goal for 8:10 during that span to fall behind 95-75. They had a 17-4 run to get back into it before Scola knocked down a jumper and Brooks hit a 3-pointer to seal the win.
“Fairly typical game for us,” said Rambis, whose Wolves attempted 18 more free throws, and held 20-point advantages in fast-break points and points in the paint. “Pockets of playing really well and pockets of playing very poorly.”
NOTES: The Rockets played without F Trevor Ariza(notes) (left hip pointer) for the fifth straight game and PG Kyle Lowry(notes) (sprained left ankle) missed his 10th game in a row. … One of Adelman’s assistants for Houston is Elston Turner, who was a finalist for the Timberwolves’ head coaching job this offseason that went to Rambis. … Wolves SG Corey Brewer(notes) made a 3-pointer in his 27th straight game, extending his team record. Brooks has made a 3 in a league-leading 34 straight games. … Syracuse alum Jonny Flynn(notes) was asked before the game about what happened to his No. 1-ranked Orange, who lost to Louisville on Saturday. “I don’t want to talk about it,” Flynn said with a smile, shaking his head.