MINNEAPOLIS — With a poise befitting a team that appears to have found itself, the Houston Rockets shook off a shaky third quarter with a dominant fourth, cruising to a 107-89 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center on Monday night.
It was a game matching two teams going in very different directions.
With all five starters scoring at least 14 points, the Rockets (35-17) remained one of the NBA’s hottest teams by winning their sixth straight game.
Without center Nikola Pekovic and shooting guard Kevin Martin and with coach Rick Adelman away tending to a personal issue, Minnesota (24-28) lost its fourth straight game and its sixth in seven games.
Up by four entering the final quarter, forward Chandler Parsons scored six of his team-high 20 points in an 11-0 run that essentially put the game away; ultimately the fourth quarter turned into a runaway with the Wolves scoring just 11 points. It was a season low for the Wolves in any quarter of play.
“It was just not trying to make the spectacular play,” said Parsons of the fourth quarter, which came after the Wolves had ended the third on a 14-3 run to pull within four points. “It was being solid, giving up good shots for great shots. Not forcing anything. We can be so balanced you can’t scout us because you don’t know who’s going to hurt you.”
That was certainly true Monday, with Parsons scoring 20, guard James Harden scoring 19, center Dwight Howard getting 18 points and 15 rebounds and forward Terrence Jones and guard Patrick Beverley scoring 14 each.
Houston scored 52 points in the paint and got 26 on the break. They shot 47.6 percent overall, 11-for-27 (40.7 percent) on 3-pointers. More importantly, they continued to show a knack for finishing games.
“They hurt us on our turnovers (in the third quarter),” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “And on second-chance points. Once we got that under control, we moved it pretty well.”
Minnesota, meanwhile, struggled mightily to stop Houston at one end and score at the other. Forward Kevin Love, playing after missing Saturday’s game with a quad muscle injury, scored 31 points with 10 rebounds. But he scored just eight points on 3-for-11 shooting in the second half. Guard Chase Budinger scored 15 points, but needed 14 shots to do it. Guard Alexey Shved came off the bench to score 11 points, but was 0-for-3 with two turnovers during that 11-0 Houston run to start the final quarter.
Minnesota shot 35.6 percent and saw Houston turn its 17 turnovers into 20 points as its playoff hopes continued to dim.
“It’s burning the candle at both ends, with there being less games,” Love said. “We can’t just continue to lose. Hopefully we’ll win this game on Wednesday and go into the break and get a few days rest and guys will continue to get healthy.”
It will take more than one victory to wash away the taste of the way Monday’s game ended.
“We couldn’t make shots,” Porter said. “A lot of guys that had good looks, looks we normally make, we just couldn’t knock down.”
NOTES: Wolves coach Rick Adelman missed Monday’s game due to what the team called personal reasons. He is expected to be back for Wednesday’s home game against the Denver Nuggets. Adelman missed 11 games last January to be with his ailing wife, Mary Kay, who was dealing with seizures. Top assistant Terry Porter filled in, as he did last season. The Wolves were 2-9 in Adelman’s absence in 2012-13. … Houston coach Kevin McHale wasn’t about to reminisce about his time in Minnesota with the Wolves. “It’s cold, I know that much,” the native Minnesotan said. McHale did say he thought Flip Saunders would succeed as the Wolves’ president of basketball operations. … Minnesota F Kevin Love, nowhere near 100 percent after taking a knee to his quad Friday, returned to action Monday after missing Saturday’s game. “He has sharp elbows and sharp knees,” Love said of New Orleans Pelicans C Greg Stiemsma, who played for the Wolves last season. “I was on the wrong end of one.”
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