Howard leads Rockets past Timberwolves
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Keeping things simple is working just fine for the Houston Rockets.
Dwight Howard had 18 points and 15 rebounds, and the surging Rockets used a fourth-quarter push to hold off the Minnesota Timberwolves 107-89 Monday night for their sixth consecutive victory.
Chandler Parsons had 20 points and James Harden scored 19 for the Rockets, who have won six straight for the first time since taking seven in a row in January 2012. All five starters scored in double figures for Houston, which has won nine of 11 and 14 of 18.
"It’s just not trying to make the spectacular play, giving up good shots for great shots, not forcing anything. That’s what we’ve been doing really good lately and it’s a lot more fun to play that way," Parsons said. "We have so many talented guys, we can be so balanced every single night."
The short-handed Timberwolves do not have that luxury right now.
Back after missing one game with a bruised left quadriceps, Kevin Love led Minnesota with 31 points and 10 rebounds. Chase Budinger had 15 points as a fill-in starter and Alexey Shved scored 11 off the bench for the Timberwolves, who have lost four straight and six of seven.
Ricky Rubio, who had three straight games in double figures, including a career-best 25 points on Saturday, was 2 of 10 for seven points.
Love’s strong game — including a career-best 23 first-half points — was needed because Minnesota played without starting guard Kevin Martin (broken thumb) and center Nikola Pekovic (right ankle bursitis).
Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman also was absent due to personal reasons. He is expected back Wednesday.
Assistant coach Terry Porter filled in for Adelman, but was left scratching his head.
"Unfortunately for us, we couldn’t make shots," Porter said. "Guys that normally make shots struggled. We had good looks, but just couldn’t knock them down. On those misses, they ran out, got some easy baskets and extended the lead."
After its 15-point lead had dwindled to four, Houston scored the first 11 points of the fourth quarter to push its cushion to 93-78. Parsons had a pair of fast-break layups and a dunk to spark the run.
This time, the Rockets did not let Minnesota counter with a run, outscoring the Timberwolves 25-11 in the quarter — Minnesota’s lowest-scoring period of the year.
"It’s almost been like that three games in a row where we’ve been in pretty good position, either ahead or right within striking distance," Love said. "Then in those first few minutes the other team just gets off to a better start than you do and pushes the lead up. We just need to be better in the fourth quarter."
Howard said the key surge came about because the Rockets slowed things down.
"We didn’t try to rush shots and rush down the floor and take bad shots. We took our time, shared the ball and got good shots," he said. "We do an excellent job of sharing the ball and finding an open man. When we do that it’s hard for teams to decide what they’re going to do, if they’re going to double out the posts or stay with the 3-point shooters. We just want to make teams make tough decisions on the floor."
Down by nine at the break, Minnesota scored the first six points of the second half, but Patrick Beverley had five of his 14 points as Houston countered with a 12-0 spurt to extend its lead to 79-64.
The Rockets then began to work the shot clock, but couldn’t get shots to fall. Instead, a 12-3 run got Minnesota within four heading into the fourth quarter.
Behind 10 points from Harden — including a pair of 3-pointers — Houston led 34-28 after one. Love had 17 points in the quarter, including 15 straight at one point for the Timberwolves.
Houston had two dunks and a pair of layups as part of a 10-2 run that bumped the lead to 56-45 with 3:43 to play in the second. The Rockets led 67-58 at the break, the most points Minnesota has allowed in a first half this season.
NOTES: The Timberwolves were 21 for 21 from the free throw line, but had no attempts in the fourth quarter. … Houston, which averages an NBA-high 31.22 free throw attempts per game, had just 20. … Minnesota starting forward Corey Brewer and center Ronny Turiaf were a combined 3 for 8, scoring just seven points in 48 minutes. … Houston is home Wednesday against Washington, its lone home game in an eight-game span.