On a very cold night in the Houston area, the Houston Rockets seemed to bring the weather inside with their play. It took the Rockets a while to get going and ultimately about 46 minutes before they were able to put away the pesky, young Minnesota Timberwolves, 113-102.
After starting the game 0-6 from the field and not getting his first field goal until the 5:33 mark in the second quarter, James Harden came alive in the second half. Harden had his second triple-double of the season (and fourth of his career), leading all scorers with 31 points, while dishing out 10 assists and grabbing 11 boards. He also had a career-high 4 blocks.
With the Timberwolves hanging around for most of the game, it was a combination of Harden making big shots, Jason Terry hitting a big three or Terrence Jones getting a huge rebound or putback.
The Rockets only had 16 turnovers tonight, but they would come at the most inopportune times. Houston would begin to pull away, getting up anywhere between 7-10 points in the third quarter. Then they would commit a couple of quick turnovers, and the lead was quickly cut to a single point or the Rockets would be trailing.
Houston obviously played down to the competition tonight; it resulted in a lot of sloppy play and lackluster defense on numerous possessions. Early in the game, the Timberwolves were able to attack the dark stained wood under the hoop and score at will. Donatas Motiejunas could not stop Andrew Wiggins or any other Timberwolves player that was coming in there.
Then Harden would do something like this to Ricky Rubio and the momentum would switch right back to the Rockets. This will go on to Harden's MVP Highlight Reel and this performance definitely keeps him at the top of the MVP rankings.
Motiejunas had a great offensive first quarter (already touched on him defensively), and then he just fell off after that. I think his struggles on defense early in the game affected him mentally for the rest of the game. For example, he didn't get a single rebound until the fourth quarter and that didn't happen until both teams combined in a stretch of 0-11 shooting.
He took turns guarding Nikola Pekovic, Gorgui Dieng and Adreian Payne. Those three players combined for 34 points and 37 rebounds. Not all were D-Mo's fault, but he did allow a lot of those points and boards to happen around him. Hopefully it was just an off game.
Josh Smith had a nice night off the bench. There were (as always) some questionable three-pointers taken, but he's shooting almost 46 percent from three in February, so it's hard to fault him. Smith had 17 points, Corey Brewer had 11, Pablo Prigioni had 2 points in his Rockets debut off the bench and K.J. McDaniels shot an air ball in his first and currently only shot as a Rocket.
The Rockets take on the Los Angeles Clippers at home on Wednesday. Tip is a little after 7 p.m. local time and TV is ESPN or Root Sports.