Defensive meltdown: Timberwolves lose to Rockets 129-125
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The Minnesota Timberwolves defensive issues continued in a Monday's 129-125 loss to the Houston Rockets.
The Wolves give up a league-worst 108.4 points per game but the 129 they gave up to the Rockets was bad even by their standards and tied a season-high.
"Well, obviously we didn't do a good job on defense tonight," coach Kurt Rambis said. "We allowed them way too many scoring opportunities. We were trying to get that point across to our guys that they have to put that as a focal point of who they are as individuals and who we are as a ball club. We have to find ways to get stops to win games."
The Wolves were in the game -- which left a lot to be desired defensively for both teams -- trailing 67-68 in the third quarter before the Rockets snapped off a 24-7 run that put things seemingly out of reach at 93-74 late in the third.
"Thtey just got a little run and they kept going," rookie Wesley Johnson said. "We just couldn't stop them. It was defensive lapses that hurt us a lot. I just think we've got to sustain those and try to stay solid for the whole 48 minutes."
But, as has been one of their silver-linings all season, the young Wolves did not give up late, somehow chipping away at a 12 point lead with 1:39 left and actually were a couple missed free-throws away from having a chance to tie.
"The fourth quarter, I thought we played well. Especially down that stretch with cutting the lead down," Kevin Love said. "We scored 125 points, so it's not our offense, it's our defense."
Love continued his double-double streak with 24 points, 17 rebounds and seven assists, all of which were team-highs. Love's streak now sits at 30 games, just seven shy of Kevin Garnett for the franchise record and most in the NBA since 1983.
It was the Rockets' Kevin Martin that did the Wolves in, scoring a game-high 34 points on 9-of-18 shooting and dished out four assists. Martin also got to the free throw line 18 times, making 13.
By comparison, the Wolves only got to the line 28 times.
One of the few bright spots for the Wolves was the play of Johnson. The rookie out of Syracuse played 33 minutes, his most since Dec. 12, and put together his best performance since losing his starting spot to Corey Brewer on Jan. 9th. Johnson finished with 19 points off the bench on 7-of-13 shooting, including 2-of-3 from behind the arc, and added four assists and three rebounds.
"Everything about Wes (Johnson) is encouraging to me," Rambis said. "He has learned an awful lot in his rookie season so far. I see an extremely versatile player that is going to be able to at some point in time in my vision be able to fill up a stat sheet."
"He will have an impact on the defensive end, block shots, rebound, attack the basket, get to the free throw line, knock down three-point shots and pull-up jumpers," Rambis said.
Darko Milicic was able to use the team's four games off to rest the ankle injury that caused him to leave last Wednesday nights loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. Darko finished with 15 points and six rebounds and a blocked shot.
Luke Ridnour was also able to shake off a sore hamstring to play 27 minutes, scoring 18 points and dishing four assists in the process.
The Wolves now have Tuesday off before taking on Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday at Target Center.