MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman looked at a lineup missing his three leading scorers before Friday night’s game against the Houston Rockets and wondered where the points would come from if his team wanted a fighting chance.
He never imagined starting forward Corey Brewer would be responsible for 51 of them in a 112-110 victory over the Rockets at the Target Center.
Brewer tied teammate Kevin Love’s franchise scoring record for points in a game on a night when Love and fellow starters Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin sat in suits on the bench and watched.
Love needed two overtimes in Oklahoma City to score 51 points during a March 2012 game. Brewer became the first player in team history to score that many in a regulation game, delivering 16 points in the first quarter and banking in a midcourt 3-pointer at halftime.
And he just kept right on going.
“I don’t think they knew what to do with him,” Adelman said afterward, “and we didn’t know what to do with him.”
Brewer scored many of his points running out on the fast break off Rockets’ missed shots. The Timberwolves outscored the Rockets 39-17 in fast-break points and were 15-for-15 from the field on them.
Brewer took 30 shots from the field and made 19 of them. He also had six steals and then turned playmaker, getting his only assist of the night on the first of two baskets by rookie center Gorgui Dieng in the final 38 seconds that ultimately won the game.
Dieng’s jumper from a Brewer pass gave the Timberwolves a 107-103 lead with 37.9 seconds left.
When Rockets guard James Harden’s 3-pointer tied the score at 110 with 17.3 seconds left, the Timberwolves answered by pushing the ball down the court without taking a timeout and Dieng scored the winner on a soft, short shot from the lane with 4.6 seconds left after he juggled an alley-oop.
“Just two points,” Dieng said of his final shot, shrugging his shoulders at the mention of his late game heroics. “If I miss the shot, we go to overtime, so there was no pressure.”
Brewer’s performance got the Timberwolves that far before Dieng took them the rest of the way. The Rockets, out of timeouts, never got off a shot after Dieng’s go-ahead basket.
When Brewer made two free throws with 1:43 left for his final points of the night, the crowd stood and cheered throughout, turning the atmosphere for a moment into something befitting a playoff game for a franchise not going to the playoffs for the 10th consecutive year.
“It’s been kind of a disappointing season for us, so to get the fans something to cheer about means a lot,” Brewer said.
Brewer said he did not think scoring 50 points was possible until he reached 44 about midway through the fourth quarter.
“I wasn’t keeping track until Kmart said, ‘You can join the club,'” Brewer said.
Teammates Martin and Love — both out injured Friday, along with Pekovic and two others — each have scored 50 points in a NBA game.
“He said, ‘You wanna come join the club,’ and I said, we’ll see,” Brewer said. “So I guess I joined the club.”
According to Elias Sports Bureay, Brewer is just the fourth player to score 50 points and get six steals in a game. The others: Allen Iverson, Michael Jordan and Rick Barry.
“Oh my goodness,” Brewer said. “That’s some company.”
The Rockets love to run and shoot. When they missed Friday, Brewer pushed back.
“He just got out and ran,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said.
Brewer had 26 points by halftime, thanks to that banked desperation 3-pointer at the first-half buzzer.
“You know, in this league, if you give anybody confidence early in the game like that, anything is possible,” said Harden, who led Houston with 33 points. “And we saw it tonight.”
Brewer said he scored 50 points in high school back home in Portland, Tenn.
“But I hadn’t scored 50 since I was in high school,” he said. “I hadn’t thought about getting 50 since I was in high school, so it was a good night.”
His performance was so unexpected that he did not come into the locker room for a postgame interview for more than an hour because he was getting drug tested.
“I was supposed to get drug-tested before the game,” Brewer said, laughing. “But it was kind of coincidence I got drug-tested after I got 51.”
The Timberwolves now have beaten Memphis, Miami, San Antonio and Houston in April at Target Center. Together, those teams had a combined .677 winning percentage (214-102) entering Friday’s game.
Afterward, Adelman marveled at a skinny small forward who played 45 minutes on Friday and never seemed to tire.
“I don’t know where he comes up with the energy he has,” Adelman said. “He played 45 minutes and he was just still going strong at the end. I think Pek and the two Kevins have been holding him back.”
NOTES: Timberwolves All-Star F Kevin Love was a late scratch because of a hyperextended elbow he suffered Wednesday in a home loss to Chicago. Timberwolves C Nikola Pekovic (foot), G Kevin Martin (foot), F Chase Budinger (ankle) and F/G Shabazz Muhammad (knee) remained out as well. … Rockets All-Star C Dwight Howard missed his eighth consecutive game because of a left ankle strain and G Patrick Beverley missed his seventh straight game because of a knee strain. … The Rockets signed C Dexter Pittman to a multi-year contract from the D-League’s Austin Toros. To clear a roster spot, the Rockets waived C/F Greg Smith. Pittman averaged 11.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in 28 D-League games this season. … Love needs 79 points to reach Kevin Garnett’s franchise season scoring record. He has 1,908 points and Garnett scored 1,987 in the 2003-04 season. But there is no telling if or when Love will play again this season, with just three games left.
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