If there's a recipe for success, it's facing a team that enters the game with the second-worst offense and third-worst defense in the league. For all of the words spent on the Rockets being the worst in the league over the past few weeks, the fact of the matter is that they weren't really deserving of their awful record. It just took the league's actual worst to show that for us. Granted, playing against that sort of combination is going to make most half-decent players look good. But the Rockets didn't just win against the Minnesota - they utterly crushed them, and that's a good sign, for once.
First, some more caveats before we get to the celebration. The Rockets continued to have some significant issues in the defensive rebounding department. Fortunately, the Wolves were largely unable to capitalize on those mistakes. As stated, they're a bad offensive team, and so the Rockets could afford their usual problems on defense.
Now on to the good stuff. The Rockets completely dominated this game at basically every position. The only Timberwolves to pull out decent statistical games were Kevin Love and Nikola Petrovic, and we're not really talking about anything spectacular here. And, beyond the statistics, Love's defensive issues against Scola were one of the (very many) factors in the Rockets winning this game, while Pekovic really didn't do much better. The Houston squad held Minnesota to just 94 points on 91 shots. In contrast, the Rockets were able to score 120 points on just 86 shots. That's pretty astounding, folks. A real ass-whooping, if I have my terminology correct.
One could object that the Rockets achieved that partly because of 47 free throw attempts (thank you, Luis Scola), but the fact is that the Minnesota defense is pretty bad at not fouling (as are the Rockets - see Minnesota's somewhat-more-sane 33 FTAs), while the Rockets are remarkably good at getting there. Luis Scola may have been at his floppiest, but he was nonetheless on top of his offensive game tonight - more on that later.
But what we mostly saw tonight, which we did not see in previous games, was some measure of defensive effort combined with offensive execution in the final quarters. If the Rockets are going to win more games, that is exactly what they need.
Individual Accolades and Such:
Luis Scola - Truly the MVP of the game, as well as that of our hearts. Managed to go 24-and-8 in only 27 minutes while getting seemingly the entire Minnesota frontcourt in foul trouble. Somewhat more amazingly, he stole the ball from the Minnesota backcourt three times, causing aneurysms in every Timberwolves employee save GM David Kahn.
Kevin Martin - Another victory in limited minutes, somewhat less spectacular than his brilliant-though-tragically-ended effort in San Antonio last night. 21 points while not sucking terribly on defense (thank you Wes Johnson).
Ish Smith - I hated on him last night, but he was in great form today. Sure, the Minnesota guards leave something to be desired (okay, I'm just going to stop with that particular disclaimer), but he showed off exactly what makes him such an interesting player - he kept getting into the lane astoundingly easily and making some pretty great passes.
What's intriguing about Ish (or, rather, what I find so particularly interesting) is that he seems to play exactly like the sorts of player's I'd create in NBA2k10 and 2k11's "My Player"
bugged piece of shit mode - small, fast, athletic point guards who can only pass and convert shots at the rim. Awesome. And he keeps trying out needless no-look passes until they finally do something. It's exactly like how I play videogames. Cool.
Anyways, Ish - the undrafted free agent - looked like a first-round pick tonight. Yes, that was partly the product of playing against an awful defense, but he did a great job.
Jordan Hill - a few great blocks, excellent work in extended minutes. He's making a real case to be Yao's backup, though I doubt he'll move ahead of Chuck.
Brad Miller - +14 in almost 7 minutes of play with only two personal fouls and a rebound to show for it. Cool.
Yao Ming - As said in the comments, it didn't really feel like he was there. Scored well, got to line, but pushed around while rebounding too much. One should never let Darko and Kevin Love push one around.
Overall, a great effort, and a win the Rockets desperately needed. The problems are still there, but who cares? We won.