Timberwolves 100, Rockets 91
The Minnesota Timberwolves are mediocre. Considering how bad they have been in recent years, it's a huge accomplishment.
Love scored 25 points and grabbed 18 rebounds to lead the Timberwolves over Kevin McHale's Houston Rockets 100-91 on Saturday night, pushing Minnesota's record to 12-12.
''It does feel good to be .500 right now, but like I said, we still want to come out and keep this thing going in the right direction,'' said Love, the player McHale, the former Minnesota general manager and coach, traded for on his final draft night with the Wolves in 2008.
The last time Minnesota was at or better than .500 this late in the season was the 2006-07 season. Of course, the Wolves had played almost double the games that season then they have in this lockout shortened slate.
Call it progress.
The feat was overshadowed, though, by an ugly third-quarter incident in which Love stepped on Luis Scola's face and chest after hacking him to the ground on a drive.
Replays showed the step knocked Scola's head against the court as Love turned to head back up. Love called the incident unintentional and a ''heat-of-the-moment type play.''
A Wolves spokesman said Love apologized to Scola in the Rockets locker room after the game.
''He was kind of right there, and you know, I've got size-19 feet,'' Love said. ''So he just happened to be there, I had nowhere to go. I got kind of tripped up, and I just had nowhere to step.''
Scola said he was more angry that Love wasn't called for the first foul.
''I have no way of knowing,'' he said when asked if he thought it was intentional. ''If it was intentional, they didn't call it. At this point, I don't care.''
It wasn't the first incident between Love and Scola this season. On Monday, Love lay on the court in pain after taking a pass from Scola in the groin.
''He was right there, it happened to be his face just like in Houston where it happened to be my groin,'' Love said. ''I've always had a large amount of respect for Luis. I'm sure he didn't take it personally, and it obviously was nothing personal toward their team.''
The Rockets bench complained loudly and was hit with a technical foul on the next possession, and Scola was also assessed a technical about a minute later.
Houston kept its composure well enough to close the quarter on an 8-4 run to pull within nine to start the fourth.
It was only the second time this season Martin, who entered the game averaging 20.7 points, didn't score in double figures. It was his fewest point total since March of 2007, when he scored one point for Sacramento against Phoenix.
''We had one of those crazy nights,'' McHale said. ''We had breaks and we missed layups. It was a bizarre night. We had it at the rim and we couldn't get it to go.''
Even so, the Rockets pulled within three with five minutes to play. But Minnesota scored 10 of the next 14 and led 98-89 when Ricky Rubio drove for a layup with 2:26 to effectively put the game out of reach.
Rubio had 13 points and 11 assists for Minnesota.
Luke Ridnour added 22 points for the Wolves, who won for the fifth time in seven games.
''We're just keeping our composure this year, and we've got a lot of guys out there on the court that can handle the ball, I think that makes a big difference for us,'' Ridnour said.
NOTES: A night after scoring a career-high 27 points and grabbing 11 rebounds, Nikola Pekovic started for Darko Milicic, who sat out with a bruised left quadriceps. ... The two teams faced each other for the third time in less than two weeks. ''It's a crazy schedule,'' Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. ''They want us to vote on the reserves for the All-Star Game, I haven't even seen four or five of the teams'' ... Asked if he saw Pekovic as a ''27-and-10 guy'' when he drafted him in the second round in 2008, McHale quipped: ''You guys are unbelievable, you got him rated just below Wilt Chamberlain right now?''