The Houston Rockets will seek to finish what they started, and they just might be getting the reinforcements necessary to do it, when they get a rematch with the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night in Minneapolis.
The Rockets watched as a 19-point lead slipped away in the opener of the consecutive-night set on Friday, allowing the Timberwolves to steal a 107-101 victory.
The win was Minnesota’s 11th of the season, the fewest in the NBA. The Detroit Pistons, who visit Washington on Saturday night, and the Rockets each have 12 victories.
Losing the front end of an NBA-style doubleheader isn’t necessarily the worst thing for the Rockets. They have been swept just once — by the Los Angeles Lakers — in four two-game sets this season. The Timberwolves haven’t swept any of their previous seven despite winning on the first night three times.
Houston appeared headed to a first-night win when D.J. Augustin buried a 20-footer for a 101-85 lead with 7:31 to play. However, the Rockets never scored again and eventually saw the Timberwolves pull ahead with a 22-0 finish.
Karl-Anthony Towns had 14 of his 29 points in the late run. He combined with Juan Hernangomez (four) and Jaden McDaniels (four) for all of the game’s scoring over the final 7 1/2 minutes.
Meanwhile, the Rockets missed their last 14 shots, including six 3-point attempts, and mixed in five turnovers. They did not attempt a free throw in the skid.
Houston’s staggering finish possibly could be attributed to having just eight players in uniform. They had two additional healthy bodies on hand, but Kelly Olynyk and Avery Bradley, acquired at the trade deadline from Miami for Victor Oladipo, had yet to get clearance to join their new team.
They’re likely to get the green light for the rematch.
Meanwhile, Rockets coach Stephen Silas wasted no time devising his game plan for Saturday.
“We know what we need to do,” he said. “We just need to do it for four quarters.”
The matchup was the first of the season between the Rockets and Timberwolves. Minnesota was outshot 42.5 percent to 37.9 percent and was outscored 51-30 on 3-pointers but used a 14-7 advantage in offensive rebounds and 21 Houston turnovers to get up 16 more shots than the visitors.
Like Houston, the Timberwolves figure to sport a new look in the rematch, with Malik Beasley eligible to return from a 12-game suspension.
Minnesota coach Chris Finch said before Friday’s game that he wasn’t sure what role Beasley would fill.
“It will just be a matter of getting with the performance team,” he said, “and seeing what his minutes and rotations and duration and all that kind of stuff will look like.”
Beasley started 32 of Minnesota’s first 33 games. He had 26 and 25 points in his last two outings on Feb. 23 and Feb. 24 against Milwaukee and Chicago, respectively.
–Field Level Media