Timberwolves, Rockets square off in Space City
The Minnesota Timberwolves will try to take the season series from the Houston Rockets and their old friend Kevin McHale when the two teams hook up at Toyota Center on Friday.
Houston had traditionally dominated the Timberwolves coming into this season, having won 14 of 15 in the series. Minnesota, however, has taken two of three from the Rockets so far in 2011-12, including a 120-108 win in Space City back on Jan. 30 and will be attempting the clinch the season series for the first time since 2004-05.
Most recently the Wolves snapped a four-game skid when All-Star Kevin Love posted 30 points and 18 rebounds and Nikola Pekovic added 21 and 11, as Minnesota sent the spiraling Bobcats to a 16th straight defeat in a 102-90 decision at Target Center on Wednesday.
The Bobcats extended their club record skid by allowing Minnesota to shoot 58 percent from the field in the second half. Love scored 10 points in a game- changing third quarter, while Pekovic netted 15 after halftime to help snap a four-game losing streak.
"We lost four games in a row, so it was really important for us [to win]," Pekovic said.
The Rockets, meanwhile, are coming off one of their most impressive wins of the season, a 96-95 win over Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City on Wednesday.
Kevin Martin scored 32 points in that one, including the go-ahead free throws with 23.6 seconds left in the game, to lead Houston, which stopped a two-game slide in the opener of a six-game homestand.
Luis Scola added 15 points, Chandler Parsons had 14 and Kyle Lowry contributed 11.
"I think it was the biggest win of the year," said Parsons. "The crowd was unbelievable tonight. That was the loudest, by far, that I have ever heard them. I think that really played a factor and this is a big win we need to build on going forward."
The Rockets, who are 11-3 at home this season, will also face Utah, Memphis, Philadelphia and Toronto on their residency.
McHale, of course, twice left his front-office position with the Timberwolves as vice president of basketball operations to replace a struggling coach: Flip Saunders in 2005 and Randy Wittman in 2009. Ironically, the mentor now on the Wolves' bench, Rick Adelman, is the coach McHale replaced in Houston.