HOUSTON – Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman has lamented more than once in recent days how his team, particularly when he has his bench players on the floor, can give up scoring runs so quickly it makes your head spin.
He had more to lament after Thursday’s 129-106 loss at Houston, other than yet another career night, and a historic one at that, from rookie center Gorgui Dieng.
Dieng delivered a 22-point, 21-rebound performance while starting his third consecutive game for injured Nikola Pekovic but it wasn’t enough to outshine the Rockets and their 17-0 second quarter run that changed the game.
James Harden scored 28 points for Houston and Kevin Love had 29 for the Wolves.
With their starters playing their second game in as many nights after Wednesday’s 123-122 overtime victory at Dallas, the Wolves once again experienced a second-quarter meltdown while Adelman tried to get those starters some rest.
Leading 41-31 with little more than two minutes gone in that second quarter, the Wolves surrendered in 3½ minutes a 19-2 run that included 17 consecutive Houston points.
By the time Adelman sent starters Love, Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer and Dieng back into the game, the Wolves trailed 48-41 on their way to deficits that grew to 10 points by halftime and 28 in the second half.
Until Thursday, the Wolves had won nine of their past 13 games, including five of their last seven on the road. They now are 34-33 with 15 games left to play.
Both teams played without their starting centers: The Wolves without Pekovic and the Rockets without All Star Dwight Howard.
With Pekovic absent for the third consecutive game, Dieng started at center for the third game in a row and delivered his third consecutive double-double, this one by halftime, when he had 14 points and 10 rebounds.
His 20-20 game was the first ever by a Wolves rookie and he’s the fifth Wolves player to reach that.
The Rockets entered the game having averaged 13 made three-pointers a game in their last three meetings with the Wolves.
They surpassed that Thursday when they went 16-for-38 from beyond the three-point line.
After scoring 22 points on Wednesday night against Dallas, Ricky Rubio had just five points on 2-for-6 shooting. He did have eight assists. Backcourt mate Kevin Martin had just six points on 2-for-5 shooting.