Minnesota Timberwolves: Player grades from Wolves win over Rockets

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 13: Karl-Anthony Towns #32 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 13: Karl-Anthony Towns #32 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Timberwolves will head into the All-Star break with a two-game winning streak after withstanding the onslaught that is James Harden to defeat the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night.

121. 86. Final. 111. 169

With a four-game losing streak and losses in six of their previous seven games, the Minnesota Timberwolves entered the week before the All-Star break with two games at home against likely Western Conference playoff teams. A pair of losses and the season would be have been effectively over.

But interim coach Ryan Saunders got his team ready, and the Wolves emerged with consecutive 10-point wins against the Los Angeles Clippers and the Houston Rockets, riding a complete team effort in both games.

On Wednesday, James Harden brought his traveling circus to Target Center, and after a slow first quarter, Harden exploded in the second frame and was the talk of the game by halftime.

Wolves rookie Josh Okogie was the wing player who drew the assignment for much of the night, however, and anyone that’s watched the No. 20 pick from June’s draft play consistently knows that he doesn’t quit, and he was more than ready for the head-to-head matchup with The Beard.

Okogie was all over Harden, cleanly picking his pocket for steals twice in the game, forcing a jump-ball early in the game, and coming away with a memorable block at the shot-clock buzzer.

With the Wolves putting the game away down the stretch, Okogie continued to pester Harden, causing the reigning MVP to dribble the ball off his leg and out of bounds.

Harden finished the game with 42 points, but it took him 34 shots to do it. More impressively, the Wolves held Harden to just six free throw attempts while the Rockets star shot 8-for-22 from beyond the arc. He also committed six turnovers in his 40 minutes.

Okogie, for his part, was still effective on offense, finishing with 16 points (7-15 FG, 2-6 3P, 0-2 FT), four assists, three rebounds, and two steals.

The Wolves used solid all-around play from Karl-Anthony Towns, a hot stretch from Jeff Teague, and tenacious defense from Okogie and Luol Deng to put the Rockets away in the closing minutes of what was a vital win for Minnesota.

A. Karl-Anthony Towns had a quiet first half but was solid throughout the game, and especially in the closing minutes. Towns hit two fourth-quarter 3-pointers and scored in the post at will against the Rockets, who switch all pick-and-rolls and continue to miss start center <a rel=. Center. Minnesota Timberwolves. KARL-ANTHONY TOWNS

Minnesota Timberwolves. JOSH OKOGIE. A. Josh Okogie was awesome on defense, only falling into Harden’s trap once in fouling the superstar and creating a four-point play opportunity. Otherwise, Okogie did well staying in front of Harden and helping when he got switched off of him. On offense, Okogie continues to struggle with his jumper but hasn’t allowed it to affect his confidence. He remains dynamite in the open floor and had a couple of beautiful straight-line drives that resulted in buckets at the rim.. Guard/Forward

Jeff Teague was perhaps the best all-around player for the Wolves in this one, which hasn’t been said very often this season. The veteran point guard put up 27 points (11-16 FG, 1-1 3P, 4-4 FT) and 12 assists and was engaged on defense throughout the game, switching crisply and doing a solid job checking <a rel=. Point Guard. Minnesota Timberwolves. JEFF TEAGUE. A+

Power Forward. Minnesota Timberwolves. DARIO SARIC. B+. <a rel=

Forward. Minnesota Timberwolves. LUOL DENG. B+. Luol Deng received his second-straight start as <a rel=

A. Taj Gibson was once again solid off the bench, putting up 10 points and eight rebounds in just 22 minutes. He was great on both ends of the floor and contributed exactly what the Wolves will need him to pitch-in off the bench moving forward.. Power Forward. Minnesota Timberwolves. TAJ GIBSON

B. <a rel=. Guard. Minnesota Timberwolves. DERRICK ROSE

The rest of the players

Jerryd Bayless played 11 first-half minutes in relief of Jeff Teague but didn’t play well, tallying a plus/minus of -13. He did not see the floor in the second half. Gorgui Dieng played only two minutes in the first half but the Wolves matched the Rockets’ small-ball after halftime and Dieng didn’t see the floor again.

Anthony Tolliver played 12 minutes after receiving a DNP-CD on Monday. He played solid defense and grabbed three rebounds but only attempted one shot, which he missed. Isaiah Canaan, fresh off inking his second 10-day contract, hit a big 3-pointer during his six-minute stint in the second half.

Next. Wolves' recent history of player development fails. dark

What’s Next?

The All-Star break is upon us, with Okogie participating in Friday night’s Rising Stars Game and Towns playing in the big game on Sunday. The Wolves next game will be in New York next Friday night against the Knicks.