The Minnesota Timberwolves once again played a superior opponent tough before failing to execute late and ultimately losing.
Less than a month after ending an 11-game losing streak, the Minnesota Timberwolves have now allowed an eight-game losing streak to build.
This stretch of futility feels at least a little different, however, as the Wolves have been in the game with a chance to win late in seven of the the eight losses, and all of them but one have come at the hands of likely playoff teams.
This time around fit the bill. The Wolves fell behind by 13 points in the second quarter with Karl-Anthony Towns on the bench, but a flurry of scoring right before halftime brought them within three.
James Harden had a bad night, scoring 13 points on 3-of-13 shooting and missing all six of his 3-point attempts. The Rockets were carried by their bench in the first half, with Austin Rivers and Danuel House leading the way.
Houston only played eight players and leaned heavily on Russell Westbrook to destroy the Wolves' poor paint defense. He did just that en route to a season-high 45 points. Westbrook didn't even attempt a 3-pointer, content to get wherever he wanted to inside the arc. He was a perfect 13-of-13 from the free throw line and pitched in 10 rebounds and six assists as well.
Minnesota finally found an opponent that they could dominate on the glass and did a solid job of creating turnovers, too. The offense even got hot late in the game, keeping the Wolves in the game while they were simply unable to slow down Westbrook's attack.
Down the stretch, the Wolves couldn't execute offensively and the Rockets made them pay with efficient offense on the other end of the floor.
It was a disappointing finish to a game in which the Wolves were legitimately competitive throughout. Now, the Oklahoma City Thunder will be in town just 24 hours later.
The Wolves bench was solid overall. From McLaughlin to Allen Crabbe's eight points in 22 minutes, there was fairly consistent production across the board.
Jarrett Culver stabilized after a pair of poor games with a seven-point, three-rebound performance in 18 minutes, although he took nine shots to get his points.
Keita Bates-Diop had a really strong stretch in the second half with an impressive steal and dunk and finished with an awesome line of five points, six rebounds, six assists and three blocks with zero turnovers in 18 minutes. The Wolves were a +1 with KBD on the floor.
Gorgui Dieng had a quiet night in what is always a tough matchup. He had two points, four rebounds and two assists and missed his only 3-point attempt.
The Wolves turn around and host the Oklahoma City Thunder at 7 p.m. CT on Saturday. The Thunder played in OKC at home on Friday night and will also be on the second half of a back-to-back.