If you haven’t yet seen it, Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves stepped on Luis Scola’s face tonight. The play was clearly intentional from any angle and surprising for a guy like Love; but stuff happens in the heat of the battle when emotions are running high. It looked to me like Love got his foot tangled on Scola on the way down and instead of carefully disloding, thought “eh, what the hell? While my foot’s down here, I might as well follow-through and stomp this guy’s face.”
Luis Scola, PF36 MIN | 10-18 FG | 4-4 FT | 8 REB | 2 AST | 24 PTS | -7Scola! Where have you been all this season?!!! This was the first game in 13 that he scored more than 20. Maybe a size 15 to the face will be a sort of brutal wake up call?
Chandler Parsons, F33 MIN | 5-14 FG | 0-2 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 11 PTS | -8Parsons didn’t shoot well and again missed a pair of significant 4th quarter free throws, but he was still active in the passing lanes and on the boards.
Samuel Dalembert, C20 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 4 PTS | -9Where was the Bear tonight? Hibernating? Napping by a lake? Chasing squirrels? Kevin McHale might be the one to ask. In a game in which the Rockets were out-rebounded 48 to 37 and the team’s leading carom-grabber only played 20 minutes, this might very well have been a relevant question.
Kevin Martin, SG31 MIN | 1-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 5 AST | 2 PTS | 0This was a miserable game for Kevin Martin. He had good looks and took them, but they just didn’t fall. You’ll get ‘em next time, my skinny, weird-leaning friend.
Kyle Lowry, PG44 MIN | 8-16 FG | 7-8 FT | 2 REB | 11 AST | 24 PTS | -7In the second half of this one, Kyle began looking for his shot for the first time in what feels like months. A welcome sight, even in a loss.
Patrick Patterson, PF26 MIN | 7-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 14 PTS | +4Patterson was a significant bright spot on offense all night. In a game in which the Rockets shot 42% as a team, his buttery jumper was a welcome, if ultimately fruitless sight.
Two Things We Saw
The Rockets looked listless, at times even afraid of the ball on offense, for the entire first half and half of the third quarter when, inexplicably, Kevin Love stepped on Scola’s face. Luis was incensed, and his mouth looked even more swollen and misshapen than usual. I’m not sure if he or McHale said something to the rest of the team, but they immediately started forcing turnovers and hitting contested lay-ups, eventually cutting Minnesota’s lead to three late in the 4th before Pekovic learned how to hit free throws, Kevin Love drained a tough three and Kevin Martin continued to miss from everywhere. Someone had to win this game. As it turned out it was the Wolves.
Minnesota shot 58% in the first half but only 21% in the second half. The Wolves didn’t score for the first five minutes of the 4th quarter, but finished the period with 19. It seems somewhat dubious to attribute this kind of wild inconsistency to the Rockets’ defense, but watching the game it seemed that Houston’s defensive effort was as mercurial as Minnesota’s offensive focus.
The gist: With seven players scoring in double figures, the Rockets easily dispatched a Suns squad that displayed no offensive firepower whatsoever. They take on the Timberwolves, who are coming off a 108-105 win despite allowing the Nets’ Anthony Morrow to run amok with 42 points.
Key matchup: Chandler Parsons vs Michael Beasley
Minnesota has been playing with a purpose ever since Beasley returned from his foot injury. Adelman has shuffled his lineup and now has Beasley in a sixth man role, a position Beasley relishes and maximizes. Parsons cannot allow another offensive explosion from the volatile forward similar to what happened in their last tiff.
X-factor: Kyle Lowry
Lowry is coming off a 5-8-9 night against Phoenix that left many scratching their heads. Lowry seems to be all over the court with his hustle but looks gassed when the Rockets set up their offense. Lowry will need help from the big men in terms of initiating the offense from the post for him to be at peak performance longer.
Code Red: Nikola Pekovic is coming off a career night, pouring 27 points and grabbing 11 boards in their win last night. Pekovic has been a revelation, providing significant contributions whenever he spells Darko Milicic. Jordan Hill and Patrick Patterson cannot rest on their laurels against the up-and-coming big. In their last game, Kevin Love also got a lot of open looks from the perimeter. Someone (by someone, we all mean Luis Scola) has to keep the defense honest on him.