Losing continues: Three takeaways from Sunday’s 104-96 loss to the Wolves

Jan 8, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Rockets guard Kevin Porter Jr. (3) reacts after scoring a basket during the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Losing continues: Three takeaways from Sunday’s 104-96 loss to the Wolves

The Rockets’ skid has reached seven straight and 11-of-12 after Sunday’s 104-96 loss to the Wolves. After a 62-point first half, the Rockets managed a season-low 34 points after the break while shooting just 32.5% from the field with 12 turnovers. Houston could not take advantage of Minnesota’s poor defensive rebounding, managing only 11 second-chance points, while the Wolves torched Houston’s transition defense for 27 fast break points.

Great start squandered

Garrison Mathews drained a three-pointer with 5:40 left in the first half to put the Rockets up 58-38. They were clicking on all cylinders at both ends of the floor. They were shooting well while taking care of the basketball, and they dominated inside with 32 points in the paint.

“We started the game so good today,” Rockets center Alperen Sengun said. “Shared the ball, (played) really good defense, everything, we did everything (well) in the first half.”

The good times didn’t last, however. Minnesota closed the first half on a 20-4 run and then took the lead by scoring the first five points of the third quarter, and led by as many as five when D’Angelo Russell hit a 3 with 9:19 to play in the period, but the Rockets allowed just seven points the remainder of the quarter to reclaim the lead going into the fourth only to see the Wolves score 11 straight points to grab the lead for good.

“Shots were falling in the first half and they weren’t falling in the second half,” Rockets head coach Stephen Silas said. “I thought we had some good shot quality in the second half, but I continue to harp on the same things as far as us playing hard, and we played hard tonight, and playing together, and when we played together in spurts, it’s not as easy.”

Kevin Porter and Alperen Sengun carry the offense

Kevin Porter Jr. and Alperen Sengun combined for 43 points on 17-of-30 shooting, while the rest of the Rockets scored 53 points on 21-of-59 shooting. Porter knocked down five of his nine 3-point attempts while the rest of his teammates combined to make 6-of-27.

Problem for the Rockets was that Sengun failed to score after halftime. Porter scored 13 points after the break, but no one else picked up the slack. K.J. Martin tried, scoring 12 points off the bench in 22 minutes, but Jalen Green and Jabari Smith Jr. failed to hit double digits.

“They were low to the ball in the second half,” Sengun said. “I didn’t get the ball that much, though.”

Jalen Green’s shot continues to flounder

Jalen Green entered the game shooting 32% over his last four games, and that number didn’t improve on Sunday. The Rockets guard shot made just one of his first 10 shots and finished 4-of-15 for nine points. While Green had not been shooting well of late, he was able to mask it a bit by averaging more than eight free throw attempts in his previous four games, but against the Wolves, he did not make one trip to the charity stripe for just the second time this season.

“He was aggressive, he was definitely aggressive,” Silas said. “He was trying to get downhill, it’s just a harder attack when you got (Rudy) Gobert there. It’s different, but early in the game he was on the attack, and he wasn’t making shots, but he had five assists at halftime.”

Next up

The Rockets will embark on a four-game trip to California, starting with the first of two games in Sacramento on Wednesday night.

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