When up against a team with the caliber of the Houston Rockets, you need to play a full 48 minutes of clean basketball to have a chance. Mistakes are bound to happen, but not giving the superior team easy opportunities to exploit you and taking care of avoidable mistakes is key.

    The Wolves did not do that against the Rockets. For the first half the Wolves let the Rockets run all over the floor, giving up too many wide-open 3-pointers and easy looks at the rim. The Wolves were jogging back in transition while the Rockets were sprinting to their spots and hitting open jumpers.

    The Rockets scored 77 points in the half to the Wolves’ 56 and were seemingly on their way to a huge blowout. They shot 63.6 percent from the field in the first half with 11 3-pointers, 15 fast break points and 20 assists on 28 shots. The Wolves shot 45.8 percent, with six 3-pointers and no fast break points.

    It was an offensive clinic for the Rockets, and a defensive disaster for the Wolves.

    By the second half the Wolves cleaned up a lot of their first half mistakes. They were getting back on defense and really slowed down the Rockets’ pace. Houston made only five 3-pointers in the second half and shot just 44.1 percent. The Rockets also took 10 fewer shots and had two fast break points.

    Meanwhile the Wolves’ offense woke up. After being down 22 points the Wolves were able to cut it all the way down to five points late in the fourth quarter. The Wolves got a jolt of energy after a little tussle between Gorgui Dieng, Chris Paul and Gerald Green.

    Paul and Dieng received double technical fouls, and Green was ejected. After this moment, the Wolves went on a 14-6 run and brought the game to within five points and under four minutes left. Surprisingly, it was Derrick Rose who led the offensive attack during the run, scoring eight of the 14 with a few highlight plays.

    Rose finished with 14 points, three assists and one rebound on 6-of-11 shooting in 19 minutes of action, most of which coming in the second half. It was easily his best game of the season, and Thibodeau rewarded the vet for it, handing most of his minutes in favor of Tyus Jones, who played just 11 minutes.

    Rose was good in this one and is likely to only play more often as the season goes on. Hold onto your butts.

    In the end, the Wolves never got any closer than five points. The second half was excellent for the Wolves, but the first half was so bad that they couldn’t fully recover.

    Four players scored 20 points for the Wolves, led by Jeff Teague with 23. He also added 11 assists, six rebounds, two steals and three 3-pointers on 5-of-11 shooting and 10-of-10 free throws.

    Wiggins was right behind with 21 points, two rebounds, one assist, two steals and two 3-pointers on 8-of-16 shooting. Towns finished with 20 points, 18 rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block. He shot 9-of-15 from the field and 2-of-3 from the line. He didn’t attempt a single 3-pointer in this game, which is not ideal as the team’s best shooter.

    Jamal Crawford was the other 20-point scorer, adding three assists, one rebound, one steal and three 3-pointers on 8-of-12 shooting. Between Rose and Crawford the bench packed a huge punch and Thibs opted to match the smaller Rockets’ lineup with a small lineup of his own.

    It paid off in spurts, but the combination was still getting beat on a few defensive possessions.

    From here on out, the schedule lightens up considerably. The Wolves only have five games against teams over .500 and three of them are on their home floor. Five games are against teams actively tanking, and then there’s one trip to LA with the Lakers.

    The Wolves should win at least seven of these games, and ideally more. If they play each game like the second half of this one, the Wolves will be in good shape.

    That being said, the race is still very tight. The Wolves are in eighth in the West, 1.5 games ahead of the ninth-place Clippers who they’ll host on Tuesday night.

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