Timberwolves 92, Rockets 79By The Sports Xchange | The SportsXchange – Sat, Jan 19, 2013 10:50 PM EST
MINNEAPOLIS -- Somebody's losing streak had to end Saturday night at Target Center. Turns out it was the Minnesota Timberwolves' five-gamer that ended with a 92-79 victory over a Houston Rockets team that now has lost its last seven games. Neither team had won since Jan. 8 before Saturday night, when newly signed D-League center Chris Johnson became the most unlikely of heroes for a Wolves team that played with just nine healthy bodies. Johnson, a training-camp invitee who was one of the Wolves' last cuts in October, scored an NBA career high with 15 points off the bench, including six straight in the fourth quarter when Minnesota repelled a Houston team that had cut a 13-point deficit down to just four points after three quarters. The Wolves played Saturday night without Kevin Love, who remains in New York City recovering from Tuesday's hand surgery that will keep him out for the next two months, at least. They also played without freshly injured Nikola Pekovic (bruised thigh) and rookie Alexey Shved (sprained ankle), the latest on a growing list of wounded that caused them to sign not one, but two players to 10-day contracts on Saturday. They reached all the way to Spain to sign European swingman Mickael Gelabale and had to secure a work visa and FIBA clearance to do so. They only had to summon Johnson from Santa Cruz, Calif. on a roster exception they received from the NBA that allows them a 16th man for the next 10 days. Johnson and Gelabale scored the Wolves' first 23 points in the fourth quarter -- until Andrei Kirilenko scored in the final 90 seconds -- when Minnesota turned a 63-59 lead back into a 13-point advantage. Johnson finished with 15 points and six rebounds and altered more than a couple Rockets shots while Gelabale scored 11 points. Rockets star James Harden led his team with 18 points, but needed 18 shots to do so. The Rockets arrived at Target Center having not won since beating the Lakers at home on Jan. 8. The Wolves hadn't won since beating Atlanta at home on that same night. With Shved out injured, the Wolves again had to rely on Ricky Rubio and Luke Ridnour extensively as their backcourt. That meant Ridnour, playing the shooting guard spot opposite Rubio's point guard, drew Harden as his defensive assignment much of the night. Ridnour gives up four to five inches to a guy who had scored 20 or more points in 22 consecutive games until Friday night's 105-95 loss at Indiana. NOTES: The Wolves got a roster exception to carry 16 players because they have four players out for at least two weeks. They added Johnson and Gelabale and then lost forward Dante Cunningham for the night when he came down sick ... Gelabale played with Wolves guard Luke Ridnour in Seattle when he spent two seasons with the SuperSonics from 2006 to 2008. Ridnour calls him "Jelly." Jelly? "We did back in Seattle," Ridnour said, "but it has been a while." ... Wolves coach Rick Adelman missed his seventh consecutive game to be with his wife, Mary Kay, who has been hospitalized for nearly the last two weeks because of an undisclosed condition. Top assistant Terry Porter continues to serve as acting head coach. ... Rockets reserve point guard Patrick Beverly is pals with the Wolves' Shved and Kirilenko from his time playing professionally in Russia. He missed an opportunity to trash talk with Shved, who missed Saturday's game. Beverly has a standing invitation to visit Kirilenko's Saint-Tropez, France, home.
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