Kevin Love's stomp on Rocket's face gives return to .500 a black eye
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Houston Rockets 100-91 on Saturday night to finally reach the .500 mark.
But the win came with a black eye of sorts after Kevin Love stepped on Luis Scola's face midway through the third quarter.
The incident occurred after a steal, with Scola lying on his back and Love stepped on his head after stumbling a bit. Love, afterwards, tried to downplay the incident.
"I fell down. He was kind of right there," Love said. "I got Size-19 feet. He just happened to be there. I had nowhere to go. I got tripped up. I had nowhere to step. It is just heat of the moment-type play."
Love also referenced an unfortunate incident in Houston on Monday, when Scola attempted to throw a ball to deflect it off of Love out of bounds but the ball hit Love square in the groin.
"He was right there and it happened to be my face, like in Houston, it happened to be my groin," Love said. "I've always had large amount of respect for Luis and it was nothing personal."
Although the refs did not blow the whistle during the incident, the league can go back and hand out fines or suspensions in situations like this. Love, however, doesn't think that is necessary.
"I personally don't think they should," he said.
Scola acknowledged he got kicked in the head but wasn't looking to stir up any more controversy when he was asked about inside the Rockets locker room.
"If it was intentional, they didn't call it," Scola said. "At this point, I don't care."
Wolves coach Rick Adelman and Rockets coach Kevin McHale declined to comment on the situation, both saying they didn't see it happen.
On the plus side for the Wolves, the win did get them back to .500 mark in their fourth attempt -- the latest they've been at an even record since the 2006-07 season, when they were 22-22.
"I think our guys are locked in," Adelman said. "We responded well to this and we are happy to be at .500."
Nikola Pekovic was given the start at center after his blowout game Friday night in New Jersey, where he scored a career-high 27 points and grabbed 11 boards.
However, the start came by default, because Darko Milicic was scratched because of a left quad contusion he suffered on Friday.
Pekovic didn't have the same scoring night -- he didn't need to -- but continued to be productive, demonstrating he can be a starter in this league. He finished with 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting and nine rebounds in 30 minutes.
The Wolves took a 55-42 lead into the locker room at halftime, thanks to 57.5% shooting from the field in the first two quarters and 16 minutes for Love, who went on to be the game's leading scorer with 25 points on 9-of-16 shooting, plus 18 rebounds.
They maintained their lead through the third quarter, even after Love's alleged stomp on Scola, and held a 81-72 lead heading into the final frame.
The Rockets stiffened up on defense in the fourth quarter. They no longer allowed the Wolves to get the easy baskets under the hoop that had flowed in during the first half and majority of the third quarter.
The visitors cut the lead to four points with 7:56 left in the game and eventually made it a three-point game at 88-85. But the Wolves never let the Rockets get over the top.
Two of the four 3-pointers Luke Ridnour came in the fourth quarter, the first quieting some Rockets momentum and the second put them up 93-85 with 4:08 to play and essentially end the game.
22: Points for Ridnour -- his most since he put up 25 against the Sacramento Kings on Jan. 16. He was instrumental for the Wolves to get off to a quick start, scoring 10 first-quarter points and jump-starting a typically stagnant offense out of the gate.
0: Minutes for former Wolf Jonny Flynn, who continues to sit on the bench for the Rockets. Flynn has played in seven games and sat on the bench the other 16 this season.
4: Number of sellouts this season after 19,356 fans showed up at Target Center to see the game that wasn't televised locally.
9: Wolves wins over Western Conference opponents this season after finishing with just seven all of last season.
• Darko is listed as day-to-day. It is fair to wonder how long Darko was for the starting lineup while he continues to be bothered by every injury under the sun and Pekovic continues to look like a steal as a second-round pick.
• Darko is the only player sitting besides Malcolm Lee, who is set to start a stint in the NBA Development League shortly while he rehabs from a torn MCL.
The Wolves finally appear to finally healthy after Michael Beasley, JJ. Barea, Brad Miller, Martell Webster and Pekovic all missed stretches early in the season.
-- Rockets coach Kevin McHale when a media member tried to bait him into talking about how he was responsible for acquiring Love.
"We want Jonny!"
-- Chants from a section of Wolves fans who were hoping to see Flynn on the court.
The Wolves now have two days off to practice and rest their shortened season-weary legs. This is only the second time this season that they get back-to-back days off.
They won't even have to fly anywhere for their next game either. They welcome in the Sacramento Kings -- one of Adelman's former teams -- for a game on Tuesday night at Target Center.
The Kings (7-15) are one of the worst teams in the West and the Wolves have already beat them once this season, winning 99-86 on Jan. 16.