The Houston Rockets headed into last night's game losers of six in a row and 10 of their last 11 games. They faced off against the Minnesota Timberwolves, winners of three in a row. Anthony Edwards was questionable the previous two days heading into the game after taking a hard fall against the Milwaukee Bucks. Initially, Edwards said he wouldn't play Sunday vs. the Rockets but ultimately could play in the game.
The Rockets went with their regular starting lineup of Kevin Porter Jr, Jalen Green, Eric Gordon, Jabari Smith and Alperen Sengun.
The Rockets started with an Eric Gordon/ Alperen Sengun pick and roll that led to a Sengun baby hook in the lane for the Rockets first basket. The Rockets made their first three shots after a Jabari Smith breakaway dunk. Rockets got out to the early 7-2 lead.
Sengun started the game fast, making four of his first five shots and having no problems with Rudy Gobert in the paint. The Rockets were extremely aggressive and led 27-14 after a Jae'Sean Tate three-pointer. Porter Jr also got off to a fast start with 10 points, 3 assists and no turnovers in the first quarter. The Rockets led 33-24 after one quarter.
The Rockets started the second quarter like they finished the first: on fire. They made four of their first five shots. They started the game 19-31, shooting 61 percent. KJ Martin didn't waste any time, as it seemed he was already ready for the dunk contest. Martin flew down the lane on a fastbreak and put down a massive dunk. Then he followed that up with a putback dunk off a Gordon missed three. The Rockets extended their lead to 20, 58-38, with 5:30 left in the second after a Garrison Mathews three-pointer.
Unfortunately, the Rockets went into one of their cold streaks that coincided with them not playing with the same intensity on defense. As a result, the Timberwolves went on a 15-2 run to cut the Rockets’ lead down to seven. The Timberwolves would cut the Rockets lead down to four at the end of the first half.
Rockets missed their first shot, and after a foul was to send Edwards to the line, they called one of their quickest timeouts of the year. The Rockets would turn the ball over on a shot clock violation, and after a Porter Jr. turnover, Russell would nail a three-pointer, and the Timberwolves had their biggest lead of the game at 70-65. Jalen Green struggled from the field, missing his first two shots of the second half.
Porter Jr bumped knees and had to be taken out of the game midway through the third quarter. Luckily Porter Jr. was able to check back in the game at the 2:30 mark with the Rockets trailing by one. The Rockets only went 7-for-22 in the third quarter but held the Timberwolves to 7-for-20 and took the lead going into the fourth quarter, 81-77.
The Rockets still couldn't get it going in the fourth quarter as they started the quarter 0-for-4, and the Timberwolves took advantage, going on a 9-0 run to start the quarter. Porter Jr. was fouled after he came away with the steal, which was called a take foul. Porter Jr., however, missed the free throw, and the Rockets missed the shot, so they came away empty.
Rockets had just two points in the quarter with 6:20 left, but after a Martin Jr three, they finally started to show some life. Smith Jr. would follow that with a steal and an excellent alley-oop pass to Green which cut the deficit down to 94-88. The Rockets, however, continue to miss shots and turn the ball over and could only muster. After his 8-for-9 start, Sengun missed six consecutive shots and did not score in the second half.
The Rockets would go on to lose 104-96, as they only scored 34 points in the second half. Green finished 4-for-15 and never got it going. Simply, the Rockets could not make shots. They had plenty of open ones, they just and couldn’t make them. They also couldn’t make plays down the stretch for the second straight game and have now lost seven in a row as they head out on a long four-game road trip.
The theme of the night during the post-game interviews was ball movement and poise. It was simple plays the Rockets were not making. They turned the ball over on a simple pass out of the paint and somehow ended up in the stands. Coach Silas pointed this out in his post-game press conference.
“Shots were falling in the first half, and they weren’t falling in the second half,” Silas said. “I thought we had some good shot quality in the second half. But I continue to harp on the same things as far as playing hard – and we played hard tonight – and playing together.
Coach Silas also spoke on the team pressing in the second half and making mistakes.
“We were pressing in the second half. Passes would get dropped or open shots that don’t go, we have a tendency to put our heads down. We can’t allow that to get our spirits down as much as it does.”
You can feel the frustration from the players as well. Kevin Porter Jr and Alperen Sengun pointed out that the team moved the ball in the first half, but for whatever reason, the ball was not moving in the second half. It was evident on the court as the Rockets only scored 34 points in the second half. The Rockets have a lot to improve on, and one of the main items that need to be addressed is finding a way to get Green easier shots after another night struggling from the field.
Rockets are now 10-30, which gives them the worst record in the NBA. They travel to California to take on the Sacramento Kings for back-to-back games Wednesday and Friday.