HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – Since Rockets coach Kevin McHale couldn’t release his frustration anywhere else following Friday’s night’s debacle against the Minnesota Timberwolves the crumpled up piece of paper clinched in his first — that was once the boxscore – had to pay the price.
McHale couldn’t hide his angst and really he didn’t try to as he reflected on how his team caved during the 111-98 loss to the Timberwolves at Toyota Center. It was embarrassing the way the Rockets big men made the T’Wolves post players Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic look like the second coming up the Twin Towers on Friday night.
Love and Pekovic pushed, shoved and rolled on the Rockets inside players all night. It didn’t matter, take your pick. Sam Dalembert, Luis Scola, Patrick Patterson and Jordan Hill were all victimized at various points in the night.
Dalembert took the first shot at containing Pekovic but he quickly found himself in foul trouble and that’s when it got dicey from there.
When it was all over, Love had another phenomenal performance against the Rockets with 33 points and 17 rebounds, while Pekovic registered a career-high 30 points while grabbing 12 boards, which included 9 offensive rebounds.
A hard-nosed defensive power forward back in his day with the Boston Celtics, McHale seemed incensed at the way his big men played.
“They beat us up. That’s the bottom line, they played very well and they beat us,” said McHale, who is indirectly responsible because he brought both Pekovic and Love to the T’Wolves when he was running the franchise. “Pekovic and Love had 63 points and 29 rebounds and they were too much for us.”
The Timberwovles, who have won the last three straight meetings over the Rockets and hold a 3-1 edge in the series this season, are just a bad matchup for the Rockets. The Rockets have had trouble defending Minnesota all season long whether it has been Love punishing them in the paint or sliding out and knocking down 3-pointers or whether it has been point Ricky Rubio racing to the back with his quick first step or Luke Ridnour doing whatever he does.
Love, who is emerging as one of the premiere power forwards in the NBA in just his third season, has owned the Rockets this season. Not counting his 39-point outburst during the Rockets only win over the T’Wolves this season, Love has averaged 29 points during the three wins.
Love’s ability to do what he wants against the Rockets inside was on display in the fourth quarter after the home team overcame a 17-point deficit and cut it to one point on a Patterson basket. That’s when Love went to work and scored the next eight points on the strength of two Big 3-pointers to push Minnesota back out to a more comfortable lead.
“He made big shots for us and that’s what we need,” said former Rockets coach Rick Adelman, who is benefitting from McHale left behind. “He did it when the game was on the line.”
And that is what has to hurt the Rockets the most. Most thought Scola and the Rockets would be fired up after the last meeting when Love bowled over Scola and then stepped on his chest on the way to the basket.
But there was absolutely no intensity from the Rockets whatsoever as Love again had his way and Pekovic joined into the act for really the first time. It was almost hard to believe this was the same Rockets team that had beaten Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City two nights earlier.
The T’Wolves shot nearly 56 percent from the floor with shots mostly in the paint while they also outrebounded the Rockets 44-26.
“They did some good things,” Rockets point guard Kyle Lowry of the Timberwolves. “Their big men are really big and strong and know how to play. They made some big shots and they got some good rebounds, offensive rebounds.”
So what, if anything can the Rockets do to slow the T’Wolves in the paint? McHale looked as though he didn’t the foggiest idea during the postgame interview session Friday night.
“They were just too much for us tonight,” said McHale, whose team has to regroup Saturday before hosting Utah and Memphis in back-to-back games Sunday and Monday.
Finally, McHale had enough of Friday’s nterview session and the crumpled up boxscore and just chunked it toward the wall before making his exit.