It wasn't the prettiest of wins, as there were a few precarious moments against the 22-46 Timberwolves, but the Rockets got their usual performances from James Harden, Dwight Howard and Trevor Ariza along with some assistance from Patrick Beverley and Michael Beasley to down Minnesota 116-111.
When the Rockets' main three get help from other areas, it usually bodes well for Houston, and Beverley's 18 points and 10 assists were just the contribution the Rockets needed to get back in the win column. Beverley shot 6-10 from the field, including burying a career-high 5 shots from deep, to go along with 5 rebounds, a steal, and a block to round out a healthy box line for the starting point guard.
Bev came out strong, knocking down 3 triples in the opening frame, and the Rockets rode that early momentum to a much-needed victory despite some ups and downs along the way. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff told ESPN's Calvin Watkins:
"He's a spark plug. He's the fire starter. He makes those plays that kind of make the hair on your neck stand up a little bit, make you pucker a little bit and get into it a little bit more, and I think the guys feed off of that, they feed off of his energy. They feed off of his fight. When he's starting a little mess, the guys feed off of that, it lifts them all up. And they all fight a little bit more."
The Rockets jumped out to an 8-point lead at the close of the opening period, something they've been struggling to do of late, and despite letting it slip to only a 2-point lead at halftime, Houston rallied in the 3rd quarter to take a double-digit lead. The Wolves did sneak back in it in fourth, making the finish a little tighter than you'd like to see against such inferior competition, but the Rockets moved to 6-3 in the month of March with the win and stayed just a half game back of the Portland Trail Blazers, who also won last night.
Beverley wasn't the only secondary Rocket to step up last night, Michael Beasley had another nice game as well. Our own Josh Reese tooted Beasley's horn here yesterday, and Beasley responded with 17 points and 6 rebounds on 8-14 shooting. Beasley's instant offense has been exactly what the second team has needed, and he's been providing the scoring spark off the bench that the Rockets had hoped they were going to get from the failed Ty Lawson experiment.
Beasley is now averaging 12.4 points and 4.9 rebounds on 52.9 percent shooting in the 7 games he's been in Houston, and if he keeps this up, the additional minutes Josh is calling for should be soon to follow. Beasley is averaging only 16.4 minutes as a Rocket, though he's logged 24 minutes per game over his last 3.
The Rockets also got another nice game from Donatas Motiejunas, who finished with 17 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocks and also shot 8-12 from the field. D-Mo is slowly rounding into form and is combining with Beasley for a potent 1-2 punch at the previously inept power forward position.
The Houston core did their thing -- Harden finished with 29 points, 14 assists and 5 rebounds, Howard had 10 points and 11 boards, while Ariza dropped 14 points and 4 dimes -- but it was the contributions of their teammates that really pulled the Rockets across the victory line.
There are, of course, still plenty of things that need cleaned up. The Rockets continue to turn the ball over at a distressing pace, as they finished last night with 17 total turnovers, including 9 from Harden. And they did allow the Wolves 58 points in the paint, as Karl-Anthony Towns got loose for 32 on 13-22 shooting.
But we've bemoaned the Rockets all season long for the lack of consistent help outside the team's primary players, so it's been refreshing to see others begin to step up as Houston fights for playoff seeding coming down the stretch.
Can the ancillary pieces continue to make a difference? We'll find out tonight as the Rockets travel to Atlanta on a back-to-back to take on the 40-29 Hawks.