Rockets 107, Timberwolves 92
Kevin McHale's first night back at Target Center since his firing in 2009 started with quite a rude reception as the hometown fans who once adored him booed lustily during his introduction.
The night ended on a much better note for him.
Kevin Martin scored 31 points to lead the Houston Rockets to their seventh straight victory, 107-92 over Minnesota on Monday night in coach McHale's first game back on the Timberwolves' homecourt since 2009.
''It's as good as the last one,'' McHale said when asked if this felt a little extra special. ''Hopefully, it feels as good as the next one.''
Kyle Lowry had 16 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds for his second career triple-double and Samuel Dalembert grabbed 15 rebounds for the Rockets, who put the game away with a 19-1 run bridging the third and fourth quarters.
Kevin Love had 39 points and 12 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who committed 10 of their 20 turnovers in the fourth quarter in coach Rick Adelman's first game against the team he spent the last four seasons coaching.
Love made 13 of 19 shots, including all five of his 3-pointers, but the rest of his team was just 20 for 61 (33 percent) and 0 for 7 from long range.
Ricky Rubio had 12 assists for short-handed Minnesota, but the rookie scored six points on 2-for-10 shooting and turned the ball over five times.
''It's frustrating,'' Rubio said. ''When you win, no matter how you did, you feel good. When you lost, no matter what you do, you feel bad. That's what it is.''
''I have three guards and no small forward,'' Adelman said. ''We tried to adjust but you're putting people out of position. ... We just didn't have enough answers.''
The Rockets started the season 3-7 and were 0-5 on the road against Western Conference foes entering the game.
But the 6-foot-7 Martin was way too much for Minnesota's small backcourt, overwhelming Luke Ridnour and Wayne Ellington with an array of cuts to the basket, turn-around jumpers and even a one-handed runner off one foot that swished through that gave the Rockets a 50-42 lead late in the first half.
The Wolves turned up the defense to take a 70-65 lead late in the third, but the Rockets blew the doors open with that big run to take control. Goran Dragic scored eight in the surge and finished with 14 points.
''That's just how our team is,'' Martin said. ''We're a team full of good basketball players and that's what happens. Whoever has the ball in their hand makes the best of it and that's what we did once again.''
The booing of McHale was a startling reception for someone who once was one of this state's most revered sports heroes.
McHale grew up in Hibbing on Minnesota's Iron Range and starred at the University of Minnesota before a Hall of Fame pro career with the Boston Celtics.
He took over as GM of the Timberwolves in 1995 and helped one of the league's most woeful franchises become relevant when he drafted Kevin Garnett out of high school in June of that year. The Wolves made the playoffs eight straight years, the last a run to the Western Conference finals in 2004.
The Wolves haven't been back to the postseason since, with a series of ill-fated decisions by McHale contributing to their downfall. He was fired in `09 and spent two seasons in television before joining the Rockets this year.
Adelman had a similar exit from Houston, with management deciding not to give him another contract after last season.
Martin, Lowry and Luis Scola all went over to shake Adelman's hand before the game. Adelman spent four seasons in Houston and helped an undermanned team take the Lakers to seven games in the 2009 Western Conference finals.
''It's always good to get balanced scoring and have everyone contributing to a win like that,'' Lowry said, ''especially coming up here against a tough team with an All-Star and a great coach.''
NOTES: Minnesota rookie Derrick Williams got his first career start and finished with 11 points and seven rebounds in 36 minutes. ... Ridnour had 17 points and eight assists. ... Rockets F Patrick Patterson picked up three fouls in just over 1 minute of playing time in the first quarter. He scored 13 points.