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Houston Rockets v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Rockets 125, Wolves 105: You guys might call it a funk, I call it the NBA season

MINNEAPOLIS — Funk isn’t the right word to describe the past two losses. Nobody needs to sound an alarm to warn of rough seas ahead. Not yet at least. But after two winnable home games turned into painful exhibits of putrid defense, stunting that promising 7-4 start, is certainly cause for concern. We can’t crumple up these box scores and throw them over our shoulder in meaningless fashion (shout-out Jimmy).

“You guys might call it a funk, I call it the NBA season,” Saunders said after the second loss in two nights to Washington and Houston without the resurgent Andrew Wiggins in the lineup due to the death of his grandmother.

“A lot of things happen and we think about it and I am going to say that I have thought about this, that two days ago we were feeling great. But one of our key members has something that he needs to make sure that he takes care of before he takes care of basketball because that is more important, the family aspect of things. We support him and we will regroup when we get him back and we’ll be on a trajectory where we feel good about things.”

A night after the Wizards came to town and sent everyone home disappointed behind 74 points from Bradley Beal (44 points) and Mo Wagner (30), the shorthanded Rockets, playing without Russell Westbrook (load management on a massive contract) and Clint Capela (concussion), beat the Wolves 125-105.

James Harden scored 49 points (30 in the first half) on a career-high 41 field goals. If the recipe for winning was to let Harden get his and nobody else get theirs, that’s where the game went sideways. As Robert Covington said in the locker room afterwards, it was the non-Harden guys like Ben McLemore (20 points) and Chris Clemons (19) that ultimately doomed the Wolves.

To quote KAT from the previous night, the Wolves unfortunately did not do some different shit. They allowed straight line drives to the cup with little to no resistance once again, struggling to hold the opponents star lead guard from an eye-popping scoring total.

It’s becoming a serious problem.

Kyrie: 50
D’Angelo: 52
Beal: 44
Harden: 49

Notes & Quotes

  • Karl-Anthony Towns had 27 points and 15 boards on 9-15 shooting, going 3-6 from beyond the arc. Towns has connected on two or more three-pointers in each of his games played this season. This was Towns’ 49th 25+ point/15+ rebound game of his career

  • Jake Layman finished with 21 points, going 9-14 from the field. He also has contributed five rebounds, two assists, and one steal. His 21 points mark his first 20+ point game of the season and fifth of his career

  • With 12 assists to close out the night, Jeff Teague accounted for his second-highest assist performance of the season, his highest being 13 assists on Nov. 2 at Washington. This marks Teague’s third 10+ assist outing of the season. His 12 assists were converted into 32 points, including eight triples

  • After dishing out his ninth assist, Teague passed Kevin Love for 14th on the Timberwolves All-Time assists list with 899. Teague has now led the team in assists on five occasions and accounts for the three highest individual assist performances

  • Coming off the bench, Noah Vonleh grabbed a season-high eight rebounds. Vonleh now has 51 career double-digit rebounding nights. His tough screen-setting is a welcome attribute

  • Jarrett Culver notched 13 points in 29 minutes, 10 of those points came in the second quarter. Culver now has six double-digit scoring performances in his rookie season. His shot remains a work in progress, particularly at the free throw line where struggles continue (9-25)

  • Wolves outrebounded the Rockets 47-41, resulting in their first loss (now 7-1) when outrebounding opponents this season

  • 30 of Harden’s 49 points came in the first half, which was the most points scored in a half by an opposing player since Carmelo Anthony dropped is 36 on Dec. 10, 2008 at Denver. (I still remember watching that game in my college dorm room with my roommate that loved Melo at the time.) Harden attempted a career-high 41 field goals and has now attempted 20+ three-point field goals five times in his career. All five of those times have come in the 2019 calendar year
  • Isaiah Hartenstein pulled down a game-high 16 rebounds, marking a career-high and his first double-digit rebounding night

Timberwolves Head Coach Ryan Saunders

On defensively using Covington:

“We were trying to fill some different areas. We expected Josh to go. We were trying to fill some different areas. ... “Making some adjustments on the fly.”

On the breakdowns:

“Yeah, you can point to a number of things. I’ve said before, and you guys can believe it or not believe it, I know who I am and I’m a no excuse person. Who’s on the court is on the court. We have to do more things to make teams like that uncomfortable. James Harden is a great player and one of the best scorers we’ll see. He took 41 shots. I thought we made him work for some of them. Some we didn’t.”

On the team’s pace:

“Push the pace, head-man the ball, get the ball out in transition. I just thought we didn’t have a pop to us at times. We were kind of jogging back in half-court. I thought we could have got more thrust to the basket at times. We just didn’t do that tonight.”

Timberwolves Center Karl-Anthony Towns

On the second half:

“From what I saw I thought we were getting good passes and good looks, we just didn’t make the shots. It’s tough when you’re not making shots and they are.”

On dealing with the Rockets defense:

“I was just being very aggressive all game. That’s what the team needs me to do and that’s what I need to do to help us win the game. Sometimes being aggressive, I saw so much attention like you said, I was just making the right plays. We just weren’t hitting shots - and that happens, that happens in games. I’m going to continue to make those right plays. Continue to be very aggressive. Continue to do what I need to do to help us win.”

Timberwolves Guard Jarrett Culver

On the shift of energy from the first half to the second half:

”I think we had energy all game, we just didn’t make a lot of shots in the second half.”

On the mental process of having a bad shooting night:

”We have to stick to the process. Some nights we are going to be hot, some nights we won’t be. We will continue to do what we do and keep working.”

On the team’s defensive feel after the last two games:

”We put some of our best defenders on them and they put a lot of shots up. I mean, we do the best we can to guard them as a team. At the end of the day, they are great players.”

Houston Head Coach Mike D’Antoni

“For sure there was a lot of heart shown. I think that’s why we’re more excited about the heart and effort and what went into playing a back-to-back. That was a character win. It was good.”

On James Harden:

“I would think it would give you confidence, you’re playing with a bazooka out there. I would think it would give you confidence, but we had a lot of guys who stepped up. Chris Clemons, especially in the first half, kept us close, and then we got the lead. Austin got to the basket a lot. Isaiah played 30 minutes of good basketball. Just a lot of young guys used their opportunity and they’re going to make the most of it and that’s what they did.”

Rockets Center Isaiah Hartenstein

On what he’s looking to showcase out there:

”I want to be solid and bring energy. I think those are the most important things and I think I did a good job of doing that.”

On taking advantage of his opportunity tonight:

”I think I did a good job tonight with my opportunity to play. I showed that I could rebound and play solid. It was a game where Capela wasn’t here so I had to step up on the rebounding end and make sure I was solid on defense.”

On if he went to Tyson Chandler or Capela for advice before heading into tonight:

”Yeah I talked to Tyson the last two games about defending Sabonis last game and Karl Anthony Towns this game. Tyson has been in the league so long so I really go to him if I have any questions.”

Rockets Guard James Harden

On finding a way to persevere and what it does for a team:

”We just know how much depth we have. Guys like Chris, Isaiah, Tyson, who started the last two games. It was a collective effort tonight and we came here wanting to win this game and we showed it.”

On how important it is to get these wins early on in the season:

”Very important. We can’t take any game for granted and we showed that tonight. I think the first half we gave up too many points, second half we locked back in and they barely got over 100 points and that’s pretty much the goal every single game. Guys didn’t look around tonight, we manned up and got a win.”