Here’s a partial list of the things the Timberwolves did well against Houston on Friday at Target Center: They held the Rockets’ starters to one three-pointer. One. They brought energy. They rebounded the heck out of the ball. They scored 18 points on the break.
Here’s what they didn’t do:
After a 131-124 loss to the high-scoring Rockets in front of an announced 16,101 fans, the Wolves were able to point to some progress. But the ultimate result was an eighth straight loss for a team that hasn’t won a game in more than two weeks.
“We talk a lot about progress,’’ Wolves coach Ryan Saunders said. “Doing the right things, and the outcomes take care of themselves. We had some early turnovers. We had some guys in foul trouble. And there’s a reason Russell Westbrook and James Harden are who they are.’’
Meaning: On a night when Josh Okogie — given the start for the express reason of guarding Harden — did his job magnificently, holding Harden to 12 points on 3-for-13 shooting, Westbrook dropped 45. Fifteen in the fourth quarter, none from behind the arc, a bunch from the midrange area where the Wolves want opponents to operate. It was the most points by a guard in the NBA without taking a three-pointer since Dwyane Wade scored 48 in 2007.
Eric Gordon scored 27 off the bench for Houston, including a key, line-drive, awkward three-pointer late. Center Clint Capela had 18 points, nine rebounds and five blocks.
The Wolves? Karl-Anthony Towns had 30 points and 12 rebounds in 27½ minutes, battling foul trouble in the middle quarters. Andrew Wiggins scored 28 in 33 minutes. Okogie had 17, hitting six of nine shots.
But on a night when the Wolves matched the Rockets in field goals and three-pointers made, Houston scored 23 points off 17 Wolves turnovers and had a nine-point edge on free throws made.
“I thought it was a really well-fought game by us,’’ Towns said. “We didn’t come out with the win, but we fought very well and competed very well. But I think they made some shots when they had to make some shots, and we just didn’t.’’
For all of that, the Wolves pared a 10-point Houston lead at the start of the fourth quarter to one on Towns’ three-point play with 7:01 left. Houston was up four with 5:51 left when P.J. Tucker was called for his sixth foul while battling Towns for a rebound. Houston coach Mike D’Antoni challenged the call, and it was reversed, resulting in a jump ball instead of two free throws for Towns.
Towns won the jump ball, but the Wolves failed to score. At the other end, Westbrook drove for a basket, was fouled and made the free throw to put the Rockets up 115-108 with 5:02 left.
Wiggins scored. Then Okogie stole the ball, was fouled by Harden and made both free throws to pull the Wolves within three.
That’s when the game turned. Westbrook scored on a drive. After Towns was called for an offensive foul, Gordon hit his awkward three-pointer to put the Rockets up eight with 3:17 left.
“It’s always frustrating when you don’t win,’’ Okogie said. “But we’ve got a quick turnaround. We’ve got a game [Saturday, vs. Oklahoma City]. We’ll try to win that one.’’