With Rudy Gobert unavailable and unable to patrol the paint defensively, the Minnesota Timberwolves still proved quite able at protecting their rim and scoring down low against the Houston Rockets on Saturday.
In need of a boost, Timberwolves coach Chris Finch turned to third-year center Nathan Knight who, in concert with a brilliant performance from Anthony Edwards, helped shift momentum.
Knight scored 17 of his season-high 19 points in the second half while Edwards delivered a tour de force effort with a season-high 44 points to steer Minnesota to a 113-104 comeback victory in the first of back-to-back games against the rockets Houston will host Minnesota on Monday.
Gobert is listed as questionable for Monday due to right groin soreness, an injury that has sidelined him for three straight games.
The 6-foot-10 Knight helped plug a significant gap in the middle for the Timberwolves, who were without both Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns (calf). Knight added four rebounds and three steals during his impactful 25-minute stretch off the bench.
“It was more like the switchability and then the athleticism,” Finch said of why he turned to Knight. “It was the force that we needed somebody to play with.”
The Rockets led for a chunk of the first half and extended to a 12-point advantage in the third quarter before the Timberwolves rallied behind Edwards and Knight. Edwards kept Minnesota in range throughout with his marksmanship, and he stuffed the stat sheet beyond his 8-for-16 3-point shooting, adding six rebounds, four assists, three steals and three blocked shots.
Minnesota improved to 7-1 at home in January and won for the eighth time in 11 games. Edwards was the linchpin offensively and defensively.
“He was locked in all day,” Finch said. “We had talked yesterday about how important this game was for us and how he needed to set the tone. He certainly did that. He was special, both ends of the floor really. Of course, offensively, everything was very, very sure. His decision-making was sharp, he was shooting it, he was driving it, (and) he was making all the right plays out there.
“He put a tone of energy into the building as well. That was important for us.”
The Rockets, meanwhile, suffered their 13th consecutive loss. Even with Edwards rampaging their defense, their wounds were largely self-inflicted. Houston missed 14 free throws and committed 21 turnovers that Minnesota converted into 30 points.
Houston finished with 54 points in the paint but that interior effectiveness stalled late. Center Alperen Sengun started 7 of 7 from the floor but scored just one of his team-high 19 points in the fourth quarter as the Rockets collapsed against the Timberwolves’ defensive pressure.
“They went small around him and they started giving a little bit more pressure on him. We’ve got to get the ball moving,” Rockets coach Stephen Silas said. “We were not great at getting the ball into him and then once the ball went in, the turnovers really were the story of the game. The turnovers in a nine-point game kill you, not to mention the 14 missed free throws.
“The counter is to get the ball moving and not stand around quite as much and try to get more play calls in that so we can get more pick-and-rolls and catch them in the pocket as well. We just turn it over way too much.”
– Field Level Media