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Rockets top Wolves in overtime 114-112

Minnesota battled it out valiantly in a contest of the walking wounded. But Houston came armed with two special weapons: All Star James Harden and lead referee Ed Malloy

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

I'm not usually one to complain about refereeing in an NBA game, but....

I'm not sayin'. I'm just sayin'....

So this game was about as weird as they come. Combined, the Wolves and Rockets were missing 6 starters, including all of the point guards. All of them. Every single one. Ricky, Mo, Pat Beverly, Isaiah Canaan.....the starting "point guards' tonight were 37 year old combo guard Jason Terry and rookie Zach Lavine, who was 4 years old when Jason Terry was drafted.

But despite missing, Dwight Howard, the Rockets still had far and away the best player available in James Harden. And between him and Terry, they had close enough to a point guard that the Rubio-less Wolves should have probably lost this one by 30 in a sane universe. But as Brewer 51 taught us, nothing sane happens when the depleted Rockets play the depleted Wolves in 'Sota.

All in all, the Wolves were not bad. Certainly not the train wreck and a half that crashed in Sixer-ville. They hustled. They took care of the ball. They generated reasonably good shots and played about as good a defense as possible given their personnel and the ref team.

More so, the young guys really made their presence felt. Wiggins stuck with the ungrateful assignment of trying to check Harden, and made a couple nice plays towards the end in the post. LaVine was kind of ok as an emergency point guard. Very encouragingly, he continued to show progress in the contact layup department, dropping in two very contested shots, then getting a spectacular dunk the third time when no one stepped in front of him.

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Anthony Bennett heard Flip's "play harder" message loud and clear, getting after it on the glass and on defense. And Shabazz. Bazz, man....

He's a weird player, no question. A power forward with the body of a small forward who often ends up at shooting guard. But he plays with 10,000% effort, eats rebounds alive, and can down opponents in a hurry with absurdly quick scoring outbursts. Tonight he led the Wolves with 20 points, despite coming off the bench and only playing 27 minutes.

Earlier today, both Britt Robson and myself wrote about how Bazz needs to be on the floor more, and while he certainly was there in the first half, the team went away from him in the second, then didn't even put him on the floor at the end of the fourth quarter and overtime. That's a really puzzling decision regarding a player who lead everyone in scoring, including sparking the second quarter comeback that rescued the team after they dug themselves a hole at the end of the first quarter.


Yes, Corey needed to be out there since he's the only kinda ballhandler who kinda knows the playbook. And yes, Chase was actually doing things. But at some point, you have to go "we need scoring. Bazz can score". Right?

And yeah, the Wolves more or less had this won in regulation. They were up, with the ball, with 35 second left and James Harden sitting with 6 fouls. All they had to do was get a bucket and it was over. But true to a team missing 4 of its best players (including both of its point guards) mistakes were made, points were lost.

Still, this game was far more encouraging that frustrating. They competed, with a severely shorthanded roster, because the young guys showed up. Target Center left for home happy. The team left for San Antonio happy. The bitter taste of the Philadelphia loss is cleansed. Hopefully for good.

Now if only we could get Ed Malloy evicted.

Three random notes:

1. Motiejunas is Houston's power forward of the future. If not, someone has made a terrible, terrible mistake.

2. Pek and Ronny are hurt a lot. We should keep Jeff Adrien.

3. Giannis freakin' Antetokounmpo. HOW DO YOU DO THAT? HOW DO YOU GO 23 FEET IN 2 STEPS???