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Rockets 129, Timberwolves 120: Too Little, Too Late

The Minnesota Timberwolves’ comeback effort against the Houston Rockets on Sunday night fell just short.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Minnesota Timberwolves Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Typically, winning games in the NBA requires good play throughout the entire basketball game. This isn’t always the case, but it’s generally a good idea to be competitive for all 48 minutes of action.

Especially when playing against the team with the best record in the NBA.

The Minnesota Timberwolves decided to employ a different strategy tonight against the 56-14 Houston Rockets. The strategy entailed showing up for only the second half after hardly competing in the first half.

Unsurprisingly, it proved to be too little, too late.

A combination of hot shooting from Houston and poor defense by the Timberwolves led to a 24-point lead for the Rockets in the first half and a 77-56 halftime score.

Here’s something I didn’t think I would type in this recap — Gorgui Dieng and Derrick Rose both provided sparks that helped bring the Wolves to within as little as five points in the fourth quarter. Dieng got Target Center rockin’ when he gave a little shove to Chris Paul after the whistle, to which Paul’s teammate Gerald Green responded to by sending Dieng into the fourth row. The sequence resulted in Green’s ejection.

Rose provided a scoring spark off the bench, tallying 14 points on 6-for-11 shooting, much of which came in the second half. Additionally, Jamal Crawford put up 20 points off the bench on an efficient 8-for-12 from the field, including 3-for-4 from beyond the arc.

Karl-Anthony Towns was his usual self, falling just shy of a 20-20 game with 20 points (9-for-15 shooting) and 18 rebounds. Jeff Teague led Minnesota in scoring with 23 points, boosted by a 10-for-10 performance at the free throw line, and added 11 assists. Andrew Wiggins added 21 points on 8-for-16 from the field.

Nemanja Bjelica continues to exceed expectations as Jimmy Butler’s replacement in the starting lineup. He filled the stat sheet with 15 points (6-for-10), six rebounds and three assists.

Ultimately, the hot start by Houston was too much to overcome. As it turns out, allowing 77 points in the first half doesn’t bode well for your chances of winning.

With the loss, Minnesota falls to the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference with a date against the No. 9 seed Los Angeles Clippers up next. Tonight’s loss against Houston concludes a brutal stretch of games that included two games against Houston and games against playoff teams Golden State, Boston, Portland, Washington and Utah all in the last couple weeks.

Of the Timberwolves’ final 11 opponents, only one (Utah) is currently in the playoff picture. With Jimmy Butler’s return on the horizon, now is the time for Minnesota to gear up for one final push for favorable playoff seeding.

Additional Notes

  • I’m still skeptical of the Derrick Rose addition, but you have to give him credit for the way he played tonight. He provided a scoring spark when it was needed most and gave his team a chance to win against the top team in the NBA. It was far from a perfect performance, but if this is the Rose that continues to show up I think most of us can get behind it.
  • It must be nice for Ryan Anderson to swish every single shot he looks at. Seems like life it pretty good for him.
  • Andrew Wiggins continues to score 20ish points per game — scoring has not been his issue. Tonight provided another example of his lack of contribution in areas other than scoring. He posted just two rebounds and one assist in a game that should have provided plenty of opportunities for each.