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Defense, anyone? Wolves lose 129-125 to Rockets

  • Blog Post by: Jerry Zgoda
  • January 25, 2011 - 3:16 AM

Notes and quotes and other stuff from the Wolves' 129-125 loss to the Rockets Monday night at Target Center.

* Tell me, how does this happen: The Wolves shot nearly 60 percent in the first half and...still trailed by a bucket at halftime?

Answer: Defense. Or, again, the total lack of it.

Afterward, Anthony Tolliver connected the Wolves' early success Monday -- seemed like everything the Wolves shot went in; their starters were 18 for 27 by intermission -- to their lack of defense, stating that when his team starts out hitting shots, it gets "lackadaisical" on defense.

"That's something that hasn't changed all year," he said. ""When we're hitting shots, we get lazy on defense."

Last time they played, the Wolves allowed the Clippers 126 points.

Monday, they surrendered 129, which tied a season high for points allowed.

Miami scored that many in the season's fourth game, back in November.

This time, the Wolves again couldn't get back out to defend the three-point line, an issue all season long.

The Rockets made 14, five of them from 6-8 forward Shane Battier, who scored a season-high 19 points.

"We have to find a way to get stops," Kurt Rambis said. "We can't allow a team to score that many points a quarter and expect to win ball games."

Well, yeah...

* Remember when rookie Wes Johnson wasn't getting any run because Rambis had decided Corey Brewer and Wayne Ellington were better fighting through picks and chasing shooting guards all night?

Well, Brewer -- back after missing two practices days to again be with his ill father -- started Monday, but played less than 10 minutes after he picked up two quick fouls that caused Rambis to turn mostly to Johnson.

The rookie played 33 minutes -- more than he had in the last three games combined -- and most of them were against Kevin Martin, who scored a game-high 34 points. He scored 16 of those in the first quarter, including five quick points that drew two quick fouls from Brewer.

Afterward, somebody asked Rambis what he found encouraging about Johnson's 33-minute, 19-point performance (the third best scoring night in his young career).

"Everything about Wes is encouraging to me," Rambis said. "He has learned an awful lot in his rookie season so far. I see an extremely versatile player who is going to be able at some point in time to fill up a stat sheet. He will have an impact on the defensive end, block shots, rebound, attack the basket, get to the free-throw line, knock down three-point shot and pull-up jumpers, even post ups. I don't see a whole lot of limitations."

* Sure, the final margin was four points, but the game wasn't nearly as close as that final score.

The Wolves stayed within a point until early in the second half, then allowed a 25-7 run that in six minutes gave the Rockets a 19-point lead.

One moment, it was 68-67 Rockets with less than two minutes gone in the third quarter.

Not that much later, it was 93-74 with about four minutes left in the quarter.

The Wolves reserves -- Pekovic, Johnson, Flynn, little-used Lazar Hayward and then Tolliver late in the quarter for Love -- chipped that deficit down to nine by late in the quarter.

But then the Rockets ran their lead right back to 19 early in the fourth and it was still as much as 16 points when Rambis sent starters Milicic first, then Love and Beasley, then Ridnour back into the game starting with about eight minutes left in the game.

The Wolves still trailed by 10 with 92 seconds left, then scored nine of the next 11 points to get within as few as three points (125-122) with nine seconds left.

Hayward was on the floor for Michael Beasley for the final 62 seconds because, according to Rambis, the Wolves needed "more activity, more energy out there on the floor."

That comeback was, of course, too little, too late.

* Kevin Love's double-double streak reached 30 games with a 24-point, 17-rebound, 7-assist night.

He leads the league with 39 double doubles and now is within seven games of Kevin Garnett's franchise-record 37-game streak in 2006. Love's streak is the longest in the league since Garnett's four years ago.

* Darko! now has scored in double figures in four of the last five games after a 15-point night Monday. The only exception was Wednesday's game at the Clippers, when sprained his ankle in the third quarter.

* The Wolves' 30 assists tied their season high.

* Luke Ridnour has made a three pointer in eight straight games now after going 3-for-3. It's the longest streak of his career, one more than a seven-game streak he had in 2006.

* The Rockets' victory was their first in their last eight games against a Western Conference team. They hadn't bean a West team since the Clippers on Dec. 22. They were 0-7 since then, but, oddly, 6-3 against the East including victories over Boston, Atlanta and New York.

That's it from Target Center here on Monday night.

Wolves practice Tuesday afternoon there.

Blog at you then.

 


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