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Strickland had a contusion in his right buttocks???

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by oomp, Jan 8, 2003.

  1. oomp

    oomp Contributing Member

    Feb 9, 2000
    Likes Received:
    I'd rather have them say I had the flu...


    Houston 94, Timberwolves 86
    Steve Aschburner
    Star Tribune
    Published Jan. 8, 2003

    HOUSTON -- Three men short when Tuesday night's game started, Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders referred to the players he did have to face the Houston Rockets as the "nasty nine."
    Little did Saunders know how nasty things would get.
    In a 94-86 loss to the team immediately in front of them deep in the Western Conference playoff standings, the Wolves (17-16) came within a meaningless bucket at the end of their worst shooting night of the season. They wound up shooting 35.9 percent (28 of 78) in the game at Compaq Center, a hair better than the 35.8 they launched at Indiana on Nov. 2.
    With all of their backpedaling, the Wolves lost control of the game in the second quarter, scrambled just to trail by six at halftime, then spent most of the final two quarters down by double digits.
    Their only satisfaction came way late, when a spurt in the closing minutes sent such a scare through Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich that he sent starting center Yao Ming back onto the floor after a long rest. Houston missed 11 of its first 12 shots in the fourth quarter, and three-pointers by Kendall Gill and Igor Rakocevic got the Wolves within 85-79 with one minute, 56 seconds remaining.
    It was, alas, just another scramble to lose by less.
    "We still should have beat that team," Gill said. "They have a lot of talent but they are not quite there yet. . . . Houston gave us some great looks, but we couldn't hit. Nobody could."
    Playing without swingman Wally Szczerbiak, newly activated but not quite ready to test his healing left foot, has been standard operating procedure. Going without little-used big man Loren Woods, sitting out the second of his two-game suspension, is no big deal.
    Having to get by without backup point guard Rod Strickland proved to be too much, though, and the Wolves slipped 1 1/2 games behind the Rockets in a still-early-but-not-irrelevant Midwest Division clash.
    "It's real important to play good against a team like Minnesota, who's been there," said Rockets point guard Steve Francis, who had 14 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds.
    Strickland spent the night at the Wolves' hotel, nursing what the team described as a contusion in his right buttocks, before joining the team for its flight home. The injury was incurred two weeks ago but apparently has become infected. He will be examined today and might be unavailable for tonight's game against Golden State at Target Center.
    Without Strickland as a safety net and with only Rakocevic as a viable point guard in reserve, starter Troy Hudson struggled. Saunders had talked Monday of Hudson's inexperience, as a floor leader, at fixing a broken team on the court. Worse, Hudson made his first shot of the game, missed his next 10, then hit the game-ender.
    "We missed a little bit of Rod's ability to settle us down," Saunders said. "But we just couldn't make shots."
    Said Hudson: "I came in focused. I didn't think it would be any bigger load than any other night. . . . Some nights it's just not going to fall for me. This was one of those nights."
    Sure was. Kevin Garnett, who led the Wolves with 25 points and 16 rebounds, missed 12 of his 18 attempts. None of the other nasty nine made more than half of his shots.
    As a result, the Wolves dropped to 7-11 on the road. They lost for only the second time in 15 games against 2002 lottery teams and are 0-2 in 2003.
    Tomjanovich was half thrilled, half relieved with the job his forwards did on Garnett. "I'll take that defense on him any time," the Houston coach said. "Our guys did a great job of fronting. Guys say, 'He's so big. Why should I front?' Well, it takes him out of his rhythm. When he catches the ball in rhythm, he just shoots over people."
    Making the entry passes tougher for the Wolves, on a night when their best playmaker was unavailable, was pretty crafty, too.
    The Rockets (18-14) improved to 13-5 at home by shooting 45.7 percent overall and 46.2 percent (6-for-13) from three-point range.

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