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Rockets Overcome Slow Start, Tame Timberwolves in Mexico City 113-101

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Tres on tres on tres, in any language.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Bienvenidos to your recap, everyone.

Mexico City is not in Minneapolis, which is a positive thing for Houston because the Rockets don't play too well in the Target Center. But for stretches against the Minnesota Timberwolves, it seemed like this game may go down to the wire, despite a clear talent discrepancy. That quickly evaporated in the second half, as the Rockets unleashed a barrage of three-point madness to close out the Wolves, 113-101, shooting 13-28 from deep in the process.

First half? Mixed bag. Some good and bad James Harden, the bad stemming from his shot selection, when he forced some outside shots that he probably didn't have to take. The Rockets never led by more than six points, as the Timberwolves found ways to manufacture buckets with a bevy of players. Tarik Black had some really good minutes off the bench, running a textbook pick and roll with Trevor Ariza (gasp!) and making an acrobatic tip-in after a Big Papa miss.

Third quarter? More of the same to start, but then Houston began to pull away, thanks to threes from Ariza and Isaiah Canaan and then more and more from others, Jason Terry notably. And that's how these Rockets are going to pull away for the time being -- from behind the arc. Jump shots and transition buckets? Maybe the latter, but this team depends on the three-ball, kind of like Duke. It's risky, but when they hit, there's no answer for it defensively.

How did the quarter end? Fittingly on a beautiful pick and roll play that resulted in Harden passing through a defender's legs to Tarik Black for a hook shot. And suddenly the Rockets were up 14 points.

Fourth quarter? Jet Terry led things off with another three before Big Papa swished in one more, making the Rockets 6 of 8 to that point in the half. And from there it was mostly a formality. The Timberwolves aren't built to make up points in a hurry. They have no true point guard without Ricky Rubio (LOL Zack LaVine), making for a stagnant offense made up of one-dimensional jump shooters. There's a lot of talent here, but it's obviously underdeveloped and out of place, like a fun size New Orleans Pelicans team.

The Rockets took care of business when it became apparent that they needed to, and that's always good to see. By the fourth quarter, they were toying with the Wolves. This team is good enough to toy with bad ones, especially when they get hot from behind the arc. Defense hasn't been half-bad either....

(okay it's been really good, but don't let too many people know)

Observations:

Three Up

1. Dwight Howard -- Our fun-loving Saturn 5 had a great all-around game, blocking 4 shots to go with another double-double. He even swished home a jump shot from just inside the three-point line. And then he pointed to the Mexico City stars because he deserved to be that happy.

2. Kostas Papanikolaou -- Big Papa had his best shooting night of the year, which we'll address later, but he also dished out four more assists. I can't express how nice it is for the Rockets to have a non-point guard facilitator coming off the bench. It opens up SO many options for the offense even with the point guards in there next to him. His ability to create and improvise even the slightest bit is very valuable.

3. Tarik Black -- Tarik came in and played his typical hustle-first ball, scoring ten points on 5-6 shooting. He didn't show many deficiencies, which is what you want to see from a backup big. Solid performance from, er, a Kansas Jayhawk. Fine.

Three Down

Everyone had a few bad moments, but I can't single out any players for having a truly below-average game. James Harden should have made the Three Up but he didn't really arrive in this one until the second half. Isaiah Canaan showed more flashes of offensive potential. Donuts was active defensively, dished a few beauties and finished inside. Nobody had more than three turnovers. A3za did what he was brought here to do. We'll get picky another night.

Did Corey Brewer Score 51 Points?

No.

Triple Rewards at Kostco

When you watch Kostas Papanikolaou shoot, you know it's all there. Good form, good flow, good release... it's only a matter of time before he begins to return to the middle of the shooting pack (before hopefully ascending further). Kostas went 4-4 from deep tonight, reaching double-digit scoring numbers for the first time since October, and now you're forced to look at this picture because I need to know whether or not I should ever use this again.


Papa In House

Kevin Martin Revenge Game Breakdown

With tears streaming down his face and visible rage in his eyes (maybe on standard definition TVs), Martin scored 12 points on seven shots, getting briefly toasty in the third quarter before eventually bowing out for good. Typical post-shoulder injury Martin. Quiet averageness.

CHASE BUDINGER REVENGE GAME BREAKDOWN

OOOOOHHHHHH YOU AIN'T EVEN READY FOR THIS BUT HE SCORED A BUCKET Y'ALL

81-1 Update

Still intact, rather comfortably.

Some Things Never Change

Can't blame Harden when someone forgot to press his "play defense" button. Dang trainers.

Some Things Change in Ten Seconds

This was the second missed dunk for Dwight on the game. Luckily all is forgiven within a few heartbeats.

AMC Fearfest Moment of the Game

Harden went down with an ankle injury in the third after he appeared to roll it on a layup attempt (you can find the video here because I don't want to flood this thing with Vines). He returned and looked like his normal self, so we'll assume it's nothing serious. We'll also assume Kevin McHale would play him were his ankle to simply detach.

Next Game: IT'S THE HINKIE BOWL!

Rockets host the Sixers on the 14th. Get ready for some Tony Wroten street magic.