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Wolves look near and far for help in beating Rockets

The SportsXchange

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Timberwolves went all the way to Spain for some much needed help, leaping through visa hoops and over FIBA hurdles to bring in swingman Mickael Gelabale on a 10-day contract finalized Saturday.

They only had to call to Santa Cruz, Calif., and the D League to summon center Chris Johnson.

Together, those two newcomers provided all the difference in a 92-79 victory Saturday night that ended their losing streak at five games and extended the Houston Rockets' own to seven straight.

With only one brief morning shootaround practice behind them, Johnson and Gelabale combined to score 26 points off the bench, including all but six in a 29-20 fourth quarter that clinched the victory.

Without them, the Wolves would have had only seven healthy players Saturday on a night when both starting center Nikola Pekovic (bruised thigh), rookie guard Alexey Shved and forward Dante Cunningham (sick) joined the team's growing list of injured or ill.

With them, the Wolves were able to sustain the kind of energy that vanished in the second half of their previous five games for a team that played its seventh consecutive game without coach Rick Adelman.

"That's what we needed," Wolves starting point guard Ricky Rubio said. "When you are playing only with six, seven guys and getting tired, it was tough. It was really tough. Without the coach, too. I think fresh bodies help us a lot today."

Johnson and Gelabale scored the Wolves' first 23 fourth-quarter points after the Rockets had ended the third quarter with a 10-2 run that whacked a 12-point deficit down to just 63-59 by quarter's end.

With Johnson converting alley-oop passes and Rubio's pick-and-roll feeds into dunks and Gelabale getting to the basket for free throws, the Wolves turned the game right back around, pushing their team's lead back to 11 points by midway through the fourth. A training-camp invitee who was one of the Wolves' final October cuts, Johnson relied on Rubio and other teammates to inform him to be.

"At times I really didn't know what to do offensively," Johnson said. "They just put me in the right spots to be successful. I remembered some things. Pretty simple with the bigs, especially for myself: Just roll to the basket. Ricky makes it really easy."

Target Center fans began chanting "MVP, MVP" when Johnson went to the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.

"Yeah, I heard it," he said.

Did they mean NBA or team MVP?

"Probably just for tonight, I guess," he said.

The Rockets' 79 points tied a season low and their 32.1 percent shooting from the field was a season low.

It also was the 12th lowest by an opponent in Wolves' history.

Until Saturday, neither team had won since Jan. 8.

The Rockets now haven't won since beating the Los Angeles Lakers at home that night. Six of these seven consecutive losses have come on the road.

"We are not playing well, bottom line," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. "We just right now are really in a funk and we have to get ourselves out of it, and we will. This is where we are at. We can't worry about how we got here. We just have to get out of here."

NOTES: The Wolves signed Gelabale to a 10-day contract that replaces Lazar Hayward, whose 10-day deal ended Thursday. They received a roster exception from the league to add a 16th player because they have four players out for at least two weeks and signed Johnson to a 10-day contract with that exception. ... Two-time All Star Kevin Love remained in New York City doing rehab after undergoing hand surgery on Tuesday. He is out for at least the next two months. ... Gelabale played with Wolves starting 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."... 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 continued to serve as acting head coach. ... Rockets reserve point guard Patrick Beverly is pals with the Wolves' Shved and Andrei Kirilenko from his time playing professionally in Russia. He missed the 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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