Timberwolves 112, Rockets 108
Kevin Love was a little annoyed when he glanced at the scoreboard in the second half of Tuesday's game in Houston and realized he was still short of his usual double-double.
He finished with a big fourth quarter to set a Minnesota record with his 38th consecutive double-double, scoring 20 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in the Timberwolves' 112-108 win over the Rockets.
''I'm not going to lie to you,'' Love said. ''In this one, I was aware, because when you look straight ahead, I kept looking up and trying to get the score. I knew if I had the time, eventually, I was going to get it. It wasn't bugging me too much.''
Love passed Kevin Garnett (2006) for the team's double-double record. Love's streak is now the longest since Moses Malone had 44 in a row during the 1982-83 season with Philadelphia. Utah's John Stockton also had a 37-game streak of double-doubles in 1989.
''There are nights where it's bittersweet,'' Love said. ''Tonight, it was more sweet than anything, because we got the win and got it on the road.''
Wayne Ellington added 18 points for the Timberwolves, who snapped a 13-game losing streak to the Rockets dating to January 2007. Minnesota played without injured starters F Michael Beasley (sprained left ankle) and C Darko Milicic (strained left hip flexor). Starting guard Luke Ridnour was also out for personal reasons.
''We were all just picking up for each other,'' said Ellington, who played 25 minutes off the bench. ''We've got guys down, guys injured, guys out for personal reasons. We were really trying to pick each other up and do everything as a unit, and that ended up paying off for us.''
Kevin Martin and Courtney Lee scored 23 points apiece for the Rockets. Houston was outrebounded 51-31, its largest deficit this season.
''We came out very complacent and we paid for it,'' Martin said.
Neither team led by more than six, and Ellington's jumper with 2:21 left put Minnesota ahead 105-104. Chuck Hayes missed two free throws with 1:09 to go, and the Timberwolves rebounded.
Ellington swished a 3 from the wing with 54 seconds left, and the entire Minnesota bench jumped as the Rockets called timeout. Martin sank four free throws in the last minute, but Love swished a straight-on 3 with 36 seconds to go.
''Those 3s were huge shots for us,'' Minnesota coach Kurt Rambis said. ''I didn't necessarily call for those shots, but they both got good looks and made them.''
The Rockets got the ball back with 17 seconds remaining. Lee missed a baseline jumper, Love rebounded and made a free throw with 5 seconds left for the winning margin.
''Sometimes you just say, the other team played better,'' Houston coach Rick Adelman said. ''They made big shots when they had to. They played better.''
The teams were tied at 19-all when Aaron Brooks entered with 3:08 left in the first quarter. Brooks apologized to general manager Daryl Morey and Adelman for leaving the court in the fourth quarter of Saturday night's win over Memphis because he was frustrated with his playing time. The team suspended him for Monday's win in Denver.
Houston went 4 for 8 from 3-point range in the quarter and led 29-27. Love grabbed four of Minnesota's 15 rebounds in the quarter.
The Rockets missed their first six 3-point attempts in the second quarter, and the Timberwolves moved ahead with a lineup of mostly reserves.
Wesley Johnson sank a 3-pointer in the last minute of the half to put the Wolves up 56-53 at the break.
Martin swished his second 3-pointer midway through the third quarter to put Houston up 70-66. The Rockets' leading scorer has hit multiple 3s in 12 consecutive games.
Love pulled down his 10th rebound with about five minutes left in the third, but came out for a rest with 3:26 left, stuck on nine points.
Both teams shot well in the third quarter, and Houston took a 85-83 lead to the fourth.
Love returned with 9:22 left. He missed two shots, and the Rockets took a 95-94 lead. Love tipped in Ellington's miss with 5:36 left to reach 11 points and the double-double.
NOTES: Rambis said he couldn't estimate how many games Beasley and Milicic would miss. ''I don't know of any timetable,'' he said. ... Martin passed 400 free throws made this season. He's within reach of Moses Malone's franchise record (630), set in 1981-82. ... Scola has played in 300 consecutive regular-season games.