Rockets fly past Wolves in Kevin McHale's return to Target Center
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The depleted Minnesota Timberwolves couldn't keep up with Kevin McHale and the Houston Rockets for four quarters in Monday's 107-92 loss.
After another sluggish start where the Wolves trailed by as many as 12, they rallied in the second half to take a five point lead in the third quarter -- their biggest and final lead of the game.
Kevin Love, who scored a game-high 39 points despite a nasty cough he revealed after the game, thought they had gained control when they took the lead.
"We climbed our way back in. We fought like we usually do and go on our runs. It is a game of runs. They just outworked us. They shot themselves out of that zone.
The Rockets cranked off an 11-1 run to end the third quarter and take a five point lead into the final quarter that they would never let go of. The Wolves were there own worst enemy in the final quarter, turning the ball over 10 times -- which the Rockets turned into 17 points -- and never making any semblance of a run.
"We got the lead in the third and we just stopped," coach Rick Adelman said. "We just didn't have enough energy at the end of the game."
The Wolves were even more shorthanded than usual with the absence of Wesley Johnson who was sent home from morning shoot around after becoming sick.
That left Adelman with not many options for his lineup. "The hardest thing is that we have three guards, no small forwards and give big guys. That's tough."
With Johnson out and Michael Beasley (foot), J.J. Barea (ankle), Martell Webster (back), Brad Miller (knee) and Malcolm Lee (knee) all still on the shelf, Adelman was left with only nine healthy bodies to play the Rockets.
Adelman went with rookie Derrick Williams after half-joking that he was going to flip a coin to determine whether he would start Williams or Anthony Tolliver.
Williams finished with 11 points, seven rebounds and four turnovers in 37 minutes.
Adelman wasn't particularly impressed with Williams -- or anybody for that matter.
"I didn't think that much of anybody," a very displeased Adelman said after the game.
"I thought (Williams) worked at it, he tried. He tried to attack the basket."
The problem with having to resort to Williams on short notice in the starting lineup for Johnson was that he had to play small forward rather than power forward, the position Adelman prefers playing the rookie in.
"If he is going to play that spot , he has to get around the basket and he has to make them pay at the basket," Adelman said.
Williams did get to the line and made 5 of 8 free throws, but he shot just 3 of 9 from the field.
"It was cool to have my first start but at the same time we had a lot of people hurt and injured," Williams said.
Williams said he didn't see much difference in playing the small forward as opposed to power forward, especially since the Rockets were playing with four guards for a long stretch in the second half.
"Derrick is going to have to play (small forward) but the only problem with that is that he hasn't played there that much so offensively it is going to be a bit of a worry. But it is just the way it is," Adelman said.
"I think right now he is better at the four. It is easier for him to guard people around the basket. Offensively we have backed away from a lot of things and he knows where he is at at the four spot."
The Rockets closed the third quarter with an 11-1 run after the Wolves had a 70-65 lead. The Wolves couldn't stop the bleeding in the final quarter. After four turnovers in the first five minutes of the final frame and never really had a chance the rest of the way, losing their eighth straight game to the Rockets.
7: Consecutive victories for McHale and the Rockets after the win Monday night.
100: Percent from behind the arc for Love, who shot 5 of 5 and shot 68% from the field.
5: Turnovers for Ricky Rubio who admitted to trying to force it a bit too much. He finished with six points and 12 assists.
A week ago the Wolves appeared to be on the verge of a full strength basketball team for the first time all season but they still haven't gotten any more bodies on the court.
Barea returned in last Monday's win over the Sacramento Kings but has since returned to the bench after tweaking the nagging hamstring. Barea has missed the last three games and six of the past seven. Adelman said they are going to shut him down for the week to make sure his hamstring gets fully healed this time around and they don't make the same mistake twice.
Michael Beasley is in the same boat Barea is in, likely to miss another week or so with the mid-foot sprain he suffered earlier in the month in a loss to Chicago. Beasley has now missed nine games in total and admitted to being frustrated with the slow progress before Monday's game.
Beasley said he has been doing full workouts but hasn't been cleared to practice yet. He said the only time he experiences pain is when he tries to make quick cuts and fast movements.
The veterans Martell Webster and Brad Miller returned to practice a week ago but have yet to even be active for a game. Adelman says the two will continue practicing with the idea that they will play this weekend against either San Antonio or Los Angeles.
McHale and Love
Former Timberwolves general manager and coach Kevin McHale returned to the Target Center Monday for the first time since he wasn't brought back in 2009.
The crowd of 16,924 lustily booed McHale when he was introduced before the game, apparently forgetting he was the man who swung the deal to bring current franchise man Love to the Tmberwolves.
In a trade that was roundly-hated at the time by fans, McHale traded the No. 3 overall pick O.J. Mayo to the Memphis Grizzlies for No. 5 pick Love, Mike Miller, Brian Cardinal and Jason Collins.
McHale revealed that the trade that has helped turn the Wolves around almost didn't happen.
"We had a deal we thought with Memphis and then that deal started breaking apart and I was like 'Oh boy,'" McHale said. "I really wanted him. I felt that (Mike) Miller and Kevin for O.J. (Mayo) was a really good deal. Then finally it came around a little later in the draft but it kind of took that pick. For a while I thought we were going to have O.J. Mayo. I personally preferred Kevin and the deal got resurrected."
McHale had faith enough in Love to swing the unpopular deal but even he admitted that Love has surpassed even his wildest expectations in his fourth NBA season.
"He is such a talented kid," McHale said. "The numbers he is putting up are just phenomenal. They really are. They are astronomical."
McHale scoffed at the notion that Love is getting by using moves he taught him while was still in the organization.
"He is clever down there (in the post)," he said. "He always has been. He was clever when he was in college. He has a really good basketball IQ. He looks great. Really cut. His body, he has really defined himself. Much more lean. I am really happy for him and hopefully tonight he doesn't have one of those monster nights."
After the game, Love spoke very highly of the man who showed so much confidence in him on Draft night in 2008.
"(I) gave him a hug before the game when I was out there shooting around," Love said. "We always pick up where we left off. A lot of respect between the both of us. Whether he is coaching for another team, whether I'm playing for his team, I am retired, we will be shooting the (expletive) together. He is a good guy. I love him and I love his family."
Although Love did admit it was odd to see McHale on the opposite bench but was not at all shocked he has guided the Rockets to a 10-7 record.
"It was different," he said. "Used to seeing him on TV or on our bench. He is doing a great job. He has the guys playing for him and I wouldn't expect anything else. He is a fun guy to play for, a fun guy to be around and he is a players coach."
Beasley said he has been watching a lot of games on NBA League Pass while the team is on the road and he is stuck at home.
"Shouldn't I be getting that free? I am the only player in the league paying for League Pass," he said.
The Wolves get a day off Tuesday before heading to Dallas to take on the reigning NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks. The Wolves knocked the Mavericks off earlier this season in a 99-82 victory on New Year's Day -- their first victory of the season.
They then get Thursday off where Adelman says they will squeeze in a practice before welcoming the San Antonio Spurs to Target Centerfor a second time this season. The Wolves beat the Spurs 106-96 the night after their win against the Mavericks.