Aaron Brooks scored 26 points, Terrence Jones and Dwight Howard had double-doubles and the Houston Rockets topped the Minnesota Timberwolves, 112-101, despite James Harden sitting out with a sore foot.
The Rockets put on a shooting clinic in this one, going 17-of-31 from three-point range and hitting on 52 percent of their field-goal attempts overall. However, it wasn't all rainbows and gumdrops for Houston.
The Rockets turned the ball over 23 times, and all of those miscues kept the Timberwolves in the game for much longer than they deserved. Minnesota shot only 40 percent from the floor, but it was able to generate points off turnovers to keep the contest close for a while.
Kevin Love had 27 points and 15 rebounds to lead the Wolves, who fell to 2-5 on the road and 8-7 overall. Corey Brewer chipped in with 22.
Let's break this one down.
Aaron Brooks Went Off
With Harden out, someone from Houston needed to step up. You would figure it would have been Jeremy Lin or maybe even Patrick Beverley, but no; it was the third-string floor general Brooks.
Brooks took over this game for the Rockets, answering every Minnesota run with a barrage of threes. The little man wet 6-of-7 from distance in this one, going 10-of-14 from the floor overall. He also added five assists and four rebounds.
Every time the Timberwolves started to cut into Houston's lead, Brooks squelched the run. This was truly an outstanding performance by a very underrated player.
Dwight Howard Is Still Limited Offensively, But He Still Plays D
Howard only scored 11 points in the win, but he was sensational on the defensive end.
He made life exceedingly difficult for Nikola Pekovic, using his athleticism and smarts to dominate Pekovic inside. Dwight blocked four shots in this one, including a big-time swat on Pek in the second half.
Howard also forced Kevin Love to rush a few shots in the paint, resulting in some misses on what should have been easy makes for the MVP candidate.
The Back-to-Back Hurt Minnesota
After bludgeoning the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night, the Timberwolves didn't appear to have much legs against the Rockets. They hit on only eight of their 26 three-point tries, and Kevin Martin shot only 7-of-19 from the floor.
Wolves Bench Continues to Struggle
Not even J.J. Barea was able to provide a spark for Minnesota on Saturday night, as the explosive backup guard went a paltry 1-of-10 from the floor.
The lack of a pine is a serious issue for the Timberwolves. As the season progresses, their starters are going to get worn out pretty fast if the front office doesn't add some bench help. Of course, guys like Derrick Williams and Alexey Shved could help by stepping up, but I'm not so sure they are capable of consistently doing so.
The Wolves got only 12 points from their reserves in the loss.
Rockets Have to Take Better Care of the Basketball
Turning the ball over 23 times might fly against a team like Minnesota, but against the upper echelon ballclubs of the Western Conference, that isn't going to get it done.
Try throwing the rock away that many times against the San Antonio Spurs and see what happens to you. It wouldn't be pretty.
This isn't anything new for Houston, either. This has been an ongoing problem even when Harden has been in the lineup. The Rockets rank dead last in the league in taking care of the ball, and that is just not going to cut it in the playoffs.
This is a very talented group, but if you can't hold on to the basketball, you aren't going to win a championship, or even go very far in the postseason, period. It's that simple.