So at home in Target Center’s friendly confines these past two months, the Timberwolves were made — to borrow a word from starting point guard Jeff Teague — “uncomfortable” in a 126-108 loss by a Houston Rockets team that can shoot the ball from almost everywhere, and usually does.
The Rockets sure did Tuesday.
Leading by just four points with just under eight minutes left, the Rockets made four consecutive three-pointers to lead by 16 points less than two minutes later and outscored the Wolves 31-17 the rest of the way.
By the time it was all over, the Rockets outdid the Wolves 66-18 in three-pointers made and 48-14 in bench scoring.
By the time it was all over, they also ended the Wolves’ home winning streak — third longest in franchise history — at 13 games, dating to a Dec. 16 loss to Phoenix.
The Rockets made one more basket than the Wolves (41-40) and made the same number of free throws (22) but outscored them 42-28 in the fourth quarter by exploiting matchups after they put wing shooter Ryan Anderson at center against the Wolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns (35 points, 12 rebounds).
Anderson made four of his six three-pointers and scored 12 of his 21 points in that fourth quarter.
“He was shooting threes from the ‘e’ in the ‘Target Center,’ ” Towns said, referring to the arena markings painted 8 feet beyond the three-point line.
Anderson made the first two threes in that burst of four that buried the Wolves. PJ Tucker followed with the third three and James Harden made the fourth in a final quarter when he scored half of his 34 points.
The Wolves ran their top-five offense to precision and scored 31 points in the first quarter and 30 in the third. But their efficiency was no match for an offense that finally, according to coach Mike D’Antoni, “started raining” threes.
The Rockets shot 47 threes and made 22. The Wolves shot only one more than the Rockets made (23) and made only six of those.
“They shoot enough so eventually they’re going to make some,” said Teague, who had 25 points, but none in the fourth quarter. “They have really good shooters. You’ve got to do what you can because they make layups, too. It’s not just threes. Everybody talks about their threes, but they spread you out so much, they get wide-open layups. They’re a tough team to guard.”
D’Antoni admitted before Tuesday’s game that he knows three is more than two. Then his team went out and it proved it for a 43rd time in 56 games this season by giving the Wolves a dizzying lesson in the NBA’s new math.
“More speed, spread the floor,” D’Antoni said about the tactic. “It worked this time, doesn’t mean it’s going to work next time.”
It worked well enough that the Wolves left Target Center losers for the first time since before Christmas.
“That’s their thing,” Thibodeau said. “Our thing is, we have to score the way we score. We’ve been a high-scoring team, but to give up 125, 126 points, it’s going to be hard to win like that. If you go back the last 10 games, we’ve basically averaged the same amount they have, except we score differently.
“They score one way, we score another way. If you’re scoring like we did, you should be in position to win. Obviously, covering the [three-point] line is something you have to do well against these guys. You can’t close short against these guys, that’s for sure.”