Well, they kept it close for 2 and a half quarters.
The Wolves scrapped to stay in the game with a far more talented Houston Rockets team tonight in Mexico City, and were able to do so for a while, but eventually, after the Wolves offense went stagnant, the Rockets began making their threes, and pushed a 4 point lead midway through the 3rd quarter to 14 by quarter's end. The rest was academic as the Rockets cruised to their 7th win in 8 games, while the Wolves saw their losing streak reach three.
One of the stories of the night was what we expected: The Rockets dominated the three point game. They made 13 of 28, while the Wolves shot them well, but only went 6-12. That 21 point difference was too much to overcome. The Rockets were only 4-11 on threes in the first half, but it was apparent they were a ticking time bomb. The Wolves, who were able to keep up in the first half, went cold in the third quarter. The Rockets also struggled early in the quarter, and the game remained close.
Two Andrew Wiggins free throws got the Wolves within 4 with 4:45 to go in the third. The Rockets then went on a 16-6 run to end the quarter, highlighted by two Jason Terry threes to break the game open.
In the end, the Wolves simply did not have the horses to keep up with a Rockets team that can hurt you with any number of players. Terry and Kostas Papanikolaou went a combined 7-7 from three off the bench and it was just too much for the Wolves to handle. But it wasn't just behind the arc; Dwight Howard dominated in the paint, scoring 22 and blocking 4 shots, and making life miserable for Nikola Pekovic, who could had no answer against the Rockets big man. Tarik Black came off the bench to go 5-6 and dominate the offensive glass.
In the end, it was a comprehensive beating, but not unexpected.
On the positive side of the ledger, I thought Andrew Wiggins was fantastic defensively against James Harden, who struggled to get his 23 points on 23 shots. He did a great job of keeping him off the free throw line, and really limited his looks very effectively. It was his best defensive performance of the year and showed what he can do at that end of the floor. To me, this was the biggest positive story of the night for the Timberwolves.
Wiggins also had his moments offensively, making a few jumpers and getting to the rim for an impressive dunk in the first half. He also struggled to finish around the hoop and turned it over 4 times, reminding us that ball handling and strength remain issues for the rookie. He also really struggles to rebound the ball (1 board tonight), something that is going to be problematic going forward. Overall though there were a lot of good things from Wiggins tonight, and his game is something to feel good about.
In his second start at point guard, Zach LaVine was a mixed bag. He made some nice passes and finished with nine assists and three turnovers in 34 minutes, but he also shot 2-9 from the field and took some terrible shots. There were moments in the first half when he was able to get into the lane and make positive things happen, which is more than I expected, but when things started getting tough, there were a bunch of deer-in-the-headlights moments for him. Still, it was the 2nd game in a row where he put in at least a creditable performance given his age and lack of experience.
Ultimately the story of the game is that the Rockets are a very good team and the Wolves, not so much. That's how it goes.
- Corey Brewer had his best game of the season, going 7-7 for 18 points in 24 minutes.
- Ronny Turiaf got his first action of the season tonight, playing 10 scoreless minutes.
- Mo Williams went deeper into his funk, missing all five of his shots in 14 minutes of action. After a promising start in the first couple of Games, Williams looks lost.
- Thad Young and Nikola Pekovic combined to go 6-20 from the field. Struggled to get open looks against a stout Rockets interior defense.
- Shabazz Muhammad scored 9 points in 14 minutes, including this: