Rockets torch Timberwolves
MINNEAPOLIS — Two significant streaks remained intact after the Houston Rockets inflicted a 107-89 beating on the host Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center Monday night.
The Rockets, who had all five starters score at least 14 points, remained one of the NBA’s hottest teams by winning their sixth straight game.
The Wolves, meanwhile, continued their slow fade to irrelevancy. Without injured center Nikola Pekovic and shooting guard Kevin Martin, and with coach Rick Adelman away from the team for personal reasons, the Wolves lost for the fourth straight time and for the sixth time in seven games.
Up by four entering the fourth quarter, forward Chandler Parson’s six points spurred an 11-0 run to start the quarter that put Houston up 15 midway through the fourth quarter.
Parsons had 20 to lead Houston. Guard James Harden had 19 and center Dwight Howard had 18 points and 15 rebounds for Houston (35-17).
The Wolves (24-28) lost despite forward Kevin Love’s 31 points and 10 rebounds. Minnesota, which shot just 31-for-87 (35.9 percent), also got 15 points from forward Chase Budinger.
With Adelman away and top assistant Terry Porter at the helm, the Wolves biggest problem continued to be defense. Houston scored 52 points in the paint and 26 on the break. They also hit 11 three-pointers. Minnesota has allowed 106 or more points in three of their last four losses.
The Rockets raced to a 67-58 halftime lead. After the Wolves opened the third quarter with a 6-0 run to pull within three, the Rockets responded with that 12-0 run, essentially taking control of the game for good.
Despite being banged up, Love scored 17 first-quarter points — 13 straight for Minnesota at one point — but the Wolves still trailed 34-28 when the quarter was over.
The biggest reason?
The Wolves couldn’t stop the Rockets, who hit half of their eight three-pointers and had every starter score in the quarter, led by Harden’s 10 points.
Things didn’t get better in the second quarter for the Wolves, whose defense continued to suffer. The Rockets’ lead grew to 67-58 by halftime, those 67 points the most scored against the Wolves in a first half this season.
After the Timberwolves opened the third quarter on a 6-0 run to pull within three, the Rockets — led by Harden’s four points — scored 12 straight to go up 15. But the Wolves responded. With Love scoring six and forward Luc Mbah a Moute five, Minnesota ended the quarter on a 14-3 run to pull within 82-78 entering the fourth.
Notes: Wolves coach Rick Adelman missed Monday’s game due to what the team called personal reasons. He is expected to be back for Wednesday’s home game against the Denver Nuggets. Adelman missed 11 games last January to be with his ailing wife, Mary Kay, who was dealing with seizures. Top assistant Terry Porter filled in, as he did last season. The Wolves were 2-9 in Adelman’s absence in 2012-13. ... Houston coach Kevin McHale wasn’t about to reminisce about his time in Minnesota with the Wolves. “It’s cold, I know that much,” the native Minnesotan said. McHale did say he thought Flip Saunders would succeed as the Wolves’ president of basketball operations. ... Minnesota F Kevin Love, nowhere near 100 percent after taking a knee to his quad Friday, returned to action Monday after missing Saturday’s game. “He has sharp elbows and sharp knees,” Love said of New Orleans Pelicans C Greg Stiemsma, who played for the Wolves last season. “I was on the wrong end of one.”