HOUSTON – Timberwolves shooting guard Kevin Martin is a 10-year veteran, long enough to know the ways of the NBA and long enough to be prescient about his team’s 112-101 loss at Houston on Saturday night.
The Wolves seemingly had two factors going for themselves when they arrived at Toyota Center: Coach Rick Adelman rested all five starters the entire fourth quarter in Friday’s home thumping of Brooklyn before the team flew late that night to Houston to play its fourth game in five nights. And Rockets star guard James Harden was scratched from Saturday’s game because of a bothersome sore foot.
Before the game, Martin said Harden’s absence simply creates “more shots to go ’round for everyone else” on the Rockets, a clairvoyant call even if he didn’t specify Rockets veteran Aaron Brooks by name.
Brooks didn’t play at all in Wednesday’s loss at Dallas, but when needed on Saturday he scored 26 points off the bench in less than 25 minutes, thanks to a 6-for-7 three-point shooting performance. The Rockets attempted 31 threes and made 17.
“Yep, that’s how it works,” Martin said afterward, referring to those NBA ways. “I played with him for a year and that’s what he does.”
The Wolves forced 24 turnovers and committed only 10. By third quarter’s end, they had scored 32 points off Houston turnovers — already the most by anybody in an entire NBA game this season — and outscored the Rockets 37-15 in that category before the night was through.
And none of those advantages mattered a bit because Brooks and the Rockets fired — and made — three-pointers from any and all directions, 54.8 percent for the night. The Wolves, meanwhile, received another 27-point, 15-rebound double-double night from Kevin Love and an active 22-point game from Corey Brewer but little else.
“You can look at stats all you want,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. “Threes, that’s where the game was. They just made every three they shot, seemed like.”
With Harden out, Houston coach Kevin McHale inserted Jeremy Lin into the starting lineup beside Pat Beverley in a new two-point-guard lineup that created playing time for Brooks off the bench.
The Wolves trailed 14-2 before the game was four minutes old and never led. They pulled within a point in the first quarter’s final five minutes, but trailed by 13 points at halftime and never got any closer than eight points again.
“We didn’t have enough tonight,” Adelman said. “We could never get close enough or get any kind of rhythm in the game.”
Adelman watched Brooks play college ball at Oregon in the 2006-07 season, when he was in between coaching jobs with Sacramento and Houston. That informal scouting work contributed to the Rockets selecting Brooks 26th overall in the 2007 draft. He played three-plus seasons for Adelman before the Rockets traded Brooks to Phoenix and fired Adelman within two months of each other in 2011.
“Well, I coached him,” Adelman said. “I’ve seen him do that a lot. It didn’t surprise me.”
Brooks hadn’t scored that many points, though, since a 28-point game for the Rockets against Utah against Utah in April 2010, when he still played for Adelman.
“Not really,” Brooks said when asked if Saturday seemed like old times. “It felt like something new. It has been so long ago, I had forgotten what it felt like.”