Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrei Kirilenko, left, passes around Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) in the first half of an NBA basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)
Saturday, January 19, 2013 10:59 pm
New guys lift Wolves to 92-79 win over Rockets
By JON KRAWCZYNSKIAP Basketball Writer
Johnson, signed from Santa Cruz of the NBA Development League, scored 13 of his 15 points in the fourth. Gelabale, a forward who arrived from France on Thursday, had 10 of his 11 points in the final 12 minutes to help the injury-plagued Wolves snap a five-game skid.
James Harden scored 18 points on 5-of-18 shooting for the Rockets, who have lost seven straight games. Houston shot 32 percent and committed 20 turnovers in another lethargic effort that had coach Kevin McHale scrambling to find anybody who could give them some energy.
Andrei Kirilenko had 21 points and 11 rebounds, and Luke Ridnour scored 16 points for the Timberwolves, who had lost each of their previous five by double digits and were playing with just nine healthy bodies.
They appeared to be running out of gas again when the Rockets closed the third quarter with a 10-2 run to cut Minnesota's lead to 63-59, but that's when Johnson and Gelabale improbably took over.
The super-athletic Johnson gave the weary Wolves the shot of fresh-legged energy they desperately needed when he scored Minnesota's first eight points of period. He threw down a huge alley-oop from Ridnour and was serenaded with tongue-in-cheek chants of "M-V-P! M-V-P!" when he knocked down two free throws for a 71-62 lead.
Gelabale picked up from there, the French Olympian converting a three-point play during an 11-point scoring binge of his own to hold off the Rockets. Kirilenko's putback with 1:35 to play was the first bucket by someone other than Johnson or Gelabale in the fourth.
Getting outplayed and outhustled by two players who weren't in the league on Friday may have been rock bottom for the Rockets.
The Rockets haven't had near the injury issues that the Timberwolves have, but they looked to be hitting a pretty big wall themselves over the last two weeks. They've been sloppy on offense, turning the ball over far too many times and falling behind by at least 10 points in eight of the last nine games.
It was more of the same in the first half on Saturday night. They shot 34 percent, turned the ball over 10 times and were down by 11 early in the second quarter to a Wolves team that used a frontcourt of Gelabale, Johnson and Lou Amundson for a stretch. Harden missed seven of his first 10 shots, but his aggressiveness getting to the basket helped him make up for it with seven free throws.
Looking for some juice, McHale started backup Patrick Beverley at point guard over Jeremy Lin, who was just 1 for 5 in the first half, to begin the third quarter along with reserves Carlos Delfino and Marcus Morris. But Beverley picked up two quick fouls and had to go to the bench and the Rockets went 0 for 7 and committed five turnovers in the first four minutes of the period.
After scoring a career-high 22 points on Friday night in Indiana, Rockets center Omer Asik had just two points and five boards in 15 minutes. He picked up his fifth foul with 7:16 to play in the third quarter and did not play the rest of the game.
NOTES: Lin scored 12 points on 3-for-12 shooting. ... Rockets starters were 12 for 47 from the field. ... Timberwolves F Derrick Williams had 11 points and five rebounds, and Ricky Rubio had seven points and six assists.