Well, that game didn't have too much to recommend it. In a rather ugly performance that saw a combined 36 turnovers and over 70 free throw attempts, the Wolves could not survive a terrible third quarter and lost to the Rockets 113-102 in Houston tonight.
A tie game at halftime quickly became a significant Rockets lead after the break when the Wolves could not handle an increase in defensive intensity from the home team. They managed to shoot only 13% in the quarter, their lowest of the season, while the Rockets began to find the range from three that they hadn't been able to in the first half.
The lead grew to 14 and the game looked to be over when the Wolves, behind Andrew Wiggins made a final run in the 4th quarter and closed the gap to one point. On one memorable sequence, he stymied James Harden who spent most of the shot clock trying to beat him off the dribble, forced a miss, and beat him down the court for an and-1. It was everything Wiggins is capable of in a 20 second sequence.
Back to back offensive rebounds and put backs by Terrence Jones were killer, however, and the Rockets found their stroke once again and closed the game out fairly easily.
The Wolves, who shot the ball fairly well in the first half but struggled on the boards and with turnovers, went cold for much of the 2nd half. They missed a ton of shots around the basket, in large part due to the activity of the Rockets bigs. They also fell victim to some physical play that got them out of rhythm. Wiggins, usually extremely quiet on the floor, actually drew a technical foul after his frustration boiled over when he could not get a call. It was warranted, as he was absolutely hammered on the play, which followed several incidents that could have been fouls.
A big story was the bench disparity tonight, as the Rockets bench outscored the Wolves' 36-10. Josh Smith had 17 off the pine for the Rockets, while the Wolves only Gorgui Dieng (7 points, 14 rebounds) was a positive factor off the bench. The lack of a real back up point guard once again haunted the Wolves, as Zach LaVine played only 14 minutes and only 9 at the point guard spot. Ricky Rubio went 39 minutes, and seemed fatigued near the end despite willing himself to make several important plays down the stretch. Flip Saunders insists on using LaVine as the primary back up point guard, but then gets so frustrated with him that he won't leave him in the game. It's been that way all season, and nothing seems to be changing.
- Andrew Wiggins finished with 30 and 7 on 12-24 from the field. He was struggling until after the technical, at which point he decided enough was enough and started making shots and forcing calls.
- It was a rough shooting night for Rubio, who finished 2-9, and forced some pull ups that we could have done without. He did make all 10 of his free throws, and finished with 14 points, 9 boards, and 7 assists.
- Adreian Payne made his first start and played by far the most minutes of his career--29. He's active and finished with 10 rebounds, but also went 4-15 from the field including some wild ones. Unlike certain other guys, he certainly isn't invisible out there.
- Is it just me, or are they just not running a ton of pick and roll with Rubio? I thought it was because of LaVine that they went away from that, but Rubio is a maestro at it but I don't feel like it's a staple.
- When you shoot 33% from the field and turn it over 20 times, you aren't winning too often. It was amazing that the Wolves managed to actually make this one close down the stretch.
- Glenn Robinson III played 4 minutes...as backup power forward. His continuing presence on the roster is hard to understand when he isn't under contract next year and Flip refuses to play him regardless of circumstances.
- Next game is Wednesday at home against the Wizards. Kevin Garnett makes his first appearance in a Wolves jersey since 2007. Should be a fun night.