The Houston Rockets beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 129-105 on Monday night. James Harden had 34 points, Trevor Ariza 21 and Dwight Howard 19. Shabazz Muhammad led the Wolves with 23 off the bench, Zach LaVine had 21 and Nemanja Bjelica finished with a double-double (11 points, 14 rebounds).
Karl-Anthony Towns finished with 12 points, passing Christian Laettner for the most points by a rookie in franchise history (1472 in 1992-93). Towns is now the rookie leader in points, rebounds (841), blocked shots (136) and double-doubles (50).
Every Minnesota player except Damjan Rudez, who only played seven minutes, finished in the minus, but four of the five starters were in double-digits. Ricky Rubio finished with four points, five assists.
The loss came after three straight victories on the road, including wins over the Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers. Interim head coach Sam Mitchell attributed the loss to the time change and the wear and tear 81 games has on the bodies of his young players, but he would not allow them to use it as an excuse.
“Normally when you come off the West Coast, you have a day just to kinda get your legs back under you. And then you play the next day,” said interim head coach Sam Mitchell. “It’s tough, but that’s the NBA. Part of it is learning how to get yourself mentally ready to play. It’s not physically; everybody’s tired.”
He added that as a former player, he understands how difficult a game like this can be. But he wants to instill in his young team that they can’t make excuses.
“I understand it, I’ve been there,” he added. “You know it’s gonna happen sometimes, but you just gotta let them know that it’s still unacceptable. And they know that.”
Muhammad said the loss was disappointing, and that they came out flat. “Houston came and jumped on us from the get-go,” he said. “It doesn’t matter, we’re not playing for anything, but it’s a sense of urgency.”
Like Muhammad, Dieng was asked about the home/road discrepancy, and he said it was puzzling. “I wish I knew. If I did, we’d probably do something about it, but we feel like we play better on the road,” he said. “We should be putting on a show for them. If we play better, they’ve got something to cheer on. If we play like this, there’s nothing you can do.”