Well, it had to happen sooner or later. All season long, the Rockets have beaten the teams they were supposed to beat. In fact, the only team with a losing record they had lost to was on opening night to the Los Angeles Lakers, who now sit at 15-27.
That came to crashing halt tonight in Minnesota, as Houston just didn’t have it in a 119-105 loss to the Timberwolves. The defeat also marks the first time all year that the Rockets have lost the second game of a back-to-back.
The Rockets have looked somewhat fatigued recently but have been able to push through it, but tonight they were just slow, sloppy and listless for large chunks of the evening. Perhaps the biggest tell of an exhausted Houston team was their inability to defend, as they allowed the T’Wolves to shoot 54.3 percent from the field. The Rockets also struggled shooting themselves, knocking down just 41.4 percent of their shots.
James Harden led Houston with 33 points, 6 rebounds, and 12 assists, but he shot just 2-11 from three-point range. In fact, the entire team had trouble hitting their threes most of the night. They started off 0-7 from beyond the arc and didn’t hit their first triple until Sam Dekker cashed one well into the second quarter.
That poor shooting had the Rockets in an early hole, but they did battle back before halftime to go into the break just down a single point after Nene, who finished the game with 9 points, drained a ridiculous 30-footer at the buzzer.
That heave was the Rockets’ last gasp, however, as they came out noticeably gassed in the third frame, allowing the T’Wolves to go on a 21-6 run from which Houston would never recover.
They did finally get some touch from downtown, knocking down 7 of their 15 threes in the fourth period, but by that time, the bottom had fallen out. The game’s final box illustrates further the dead Houston legs, as they were dominated across the board in many of the hustle stats. The Rockets were outrebounded 49-32, were dominated in points in the paint 56-36, an doubled up in fast-break points 20-10.
It was an unceremonious end to the Houston nine-game win streak, though at least they now have a day to rest before Friday’s huge match up with the Memphis Grizzlies.
In addition to Harden, the Rockets also got 18 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists from Ryan Anderson and 16 points from Trevor Ariza as the only other Rockets in double figures. The absence of Eric Gordon was very noticeable tonight when the Rockets could have used another secondary scorer, and the bench unit was in need of some serious lift.
The Timberwolves were led by Andrew Wiggins with 28 points, and they also received big nights from Karl-Anthony Towns, who finished with 23 points, 18 rebounds, and 3 blocked shots, and Shabazz Muhammad, who had 20 points and 7 boards.
The Rockets fall to 31-10 on the year and blew a chance to sneak in front of San Antonio for the second seed in the West. The Rockets now sit a half game back of the Spurs, as the Grizz, one of the few teams to beat the Rockets already this year, get ready to head into H-Town for a Southwestern Divison showdown.