Baker’s dozen: Three takeaways from Saturday’s 113-104 loss to Timberwolves

Jan 21, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Houston Rockets guard Jalen Green (4) is blocked by Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards (1) and guard Jaylen Nowell (4) during the second quarter at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Baker’s dozen: Three takeaways from Saturday’s 113-104 loss to Timberwolves

The Rockets let a 12-point second-half lead get away as they lost their 13th straight game, falling to the Minnesota Timberwolves 113-104 on Saturday night. Leading 68-56 with 8:17 left in the third quarter, the Wolves hit the Rockets with a 15-2 run to claim the lead and then outscored the Rockets 26-20 in the fourth quarter. Anthony Edwards led all scorers with 44 points on 17-of-29 shooting, draining eight 3-pointers. Alperen Sengun led the Rockets with 19 points, but one game removed from a 41-point night against the Hornets, Jalen Green finished with just 10 points on 3-of-13 shooting with six turnovers.

Beating themselves

In their first two games against the Timberwolves this season, 21.4% of the Rockets’ offensive possessions ended in a turnover, leading to 60 points. Things didn’t improve on Saturday. The Rockets shot 61% in the first quarter, but they could only score 26 points because of eight turnovers, so instead of sitting with a comfortable lead, the game was only tied.

The Rockets finished with 23 turnovers, leading to 30 Wolves points, and they’ve now surrendered 90 points off turnovers in three games against Minnesota this season.

Not only did the Rockets beat themselves by giving the ball away, they were dreadful at the free-throw line, connecting on just 19-of-33 attempts. Alperen Sengun was 4-of-10 from the free throw line, while Jalen Green was 3-of-6.

The Rockets missed 14 free throws and allowed 30 points off turnovers in a game they lost by 9.

Another dominant start from Alperen Sengun

Sengun scored 18 points in the first half when the Rockets played the Wolves 13 days ago, and that was with Rudy Gobert on the floor. Gobert missed Saturday’s game with a groin injury, and Sengun went to town. Sengun made his first seven shots and finished with 19 points, 16 rebounds, and 7 assists on 7-of-9 shooting.

Numbers aside, what made Sengun’s night so impressive was that he played Gobert’s replacement, Naz Reid, off the floor. Reid started and played 14 minutes in the first half, but Wolves head coach Chris Finch subbed him out 79 seconds into the third quarter, and he never returned.

Problem for the Rockets was Sengun scored just one point in the fourth quarter, and he took just one shot. Over his last three games, Sengun is averaging 25 points and 14 rebounds on 74% shooting.

Tari Eason makes his first NBA start

Without Kevin Porter Jr. and Jabari Smith Jr., the Rockets were going to have to get creative with their starting lineup. Whenever they’ve been down one starter, the Rockets have almost always moved K.J. Martin into the starting five, but they hadn’t been down two starters until Saturday.

Jae’Sean Tate had been first off the bench, but Rockets head coach Stephen Silas elected to give the starting nod to Eason so Tate could backup Eric Gordon and Jalen Green in the backcourt, and Eason came through. In 27 minutes, the 17th pick of June’s draft finished with 14 points and 9 rebounds.

Next up

The Rockets and Wolves will travel south to square off again on Monday night at Toyota Center.

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