The Minnesota Timberwolves were without Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic, but still found itself one point favorites in Vegas against a Houston Rockets team without Dwight Howard. With Love and Pek on the shelf, swingman Corey Brewer decided to have a career night, scoring a career high 51 points for the 40-39 T-Wolves, who won 112-110 Friday night in Minnesota.
Chandler Parsons is typically an above average defender. We’ve witnessed Parsons play exceptional defense on Kevin Durant, LeBron James and the games best forwards.
But there was nothing Parsons could do with Brewer tonight.
The former Florida Gator took a variety of shots, but was most aggressive putting the ball on the floor. Brewer hit 19-of-30 from the floor and 11-of-15 from the free throw line. He was especially aggressive defensively early in the game, coming up with two early steals in the first quarter, and finishing with six steals and a block on the night.
And he wasn’t the only Timberwolf to have a big game. Rookie Gorgui Dieng hit a game winning jumper in the waning seconds to put the cap on a 12 point, 20 rebound performance for the young center. Dieng also had two blocks and two steals.
Dieng’s interior complement Dante Cunningham had a nice game too, scoring 20 points and grabbing 13 rebounds, while also blocking three shots. The Timberwolves forced 20 Houston turnovers and Jeremy Lin and James Harden each had five turnovers. The Wolves looked a much more formidable team defending in transition without the slow footed Love and Pekovic. It offered a glimpse of how the team could be improved.
While Parsons may have faltered defensively, it was a team failure defending Brewer. The help side defense was ineffective and Brewer was fearless in taking it right to the rack. Without the rim protection of Howard, Brewer smelled blood and struck.
Parsons was second on the Rockets in scoring with 27 points (Harden finished with 33), and he also had seven rebounds and seven assists. There’s not a lot of nights when a defender gets the better of Parsons like Brewer did in this one, but nothing was typical about Brewer’s game. He is a career 42.6 percent shooter yet hit 19-of-30.
Brewer is typically a strong defender, but it was his steals that keyed his offense and got the Timberwolves going early, leading 39-32 after the first quarter. Though Minnesota trailed entering the fourth and was just 3-30 in such situations, Dieng’s opportunistic jumper bailed the team out of another heartbreaking loss.
Note: The “magic number” for the Rockets clinching home court in the first round remains 2. It will take a combination of 2 Houston wins or Portland losses to secure it.