Almost two weeks ago, Houston Rockets coach Kevin McHale made a triumphant return to his home state.
Having cooled off a little since their longest win streak in four seasons, the Rockets will try to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves and former coach Rick Adelman again during the opener to a season-high, six-game road trip Saturday night.
McHale, a native of Hibbing, Minn. and a former star for the University of Minnesota, worked in various capacities for the Timberwolves after his retirement as a player following the 1992-93 season until he was fired as the team’s coach after the 2008-09 campaign, his second stint in that role.
McHale returned to coaching when Houston hired him last June and had the team heading in the right direction for much of the past month following a 3-7 start. The Rockets (13-10) won seven straight, capped by a 107-92 victory at Target Center on Jan. 23, before splitting their last six games.
The Timberwolves dealt Houston one of those three losses, 120-108 on Monday in Adelman’s return to Texas. The Rockets also blew a 19-point lead during a 99-91 defeat in San Antonio on Wednesday but rebounded Friday with a 99-81 rout of visiting Phoenix.
Houston was never threatened after scoring a season-high 59 points and building a 20-point lead by halftime. Kevin Martin’s 16 points led a group of seven players in double figures, and the Rockets’ reserves totaled 50 points and 23 rebounds.
“The bench is really getting that chemistry together,” forward Chase Budinger said. “We’re getting used to playing with one another. We start finding where guys like the ball, and also we’re bringing energy out there.”
The Rockets, though, are 3-7 away from home this season and will face a team that’s won four of six. The Timberwolves earned their sixth road win Friday - surpassing their total from each of the past two seasons - by hanging on for a 108-105 victory over New Jersey.
Luke Ridnour hit a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 1:23 remaining, and Nikola Pekovic had a career-high 27 points and 11 rebounds off the bench. Kevin Love also contributed 20 points despite missing 11 of 16 shots.
Minnesota (11-12) is 6-4 on the road and has won three in a row there. The Timberwolves, though, are 5-8 at Target Center and are on the verge of their second three-game losing streak there.
They’ve also failed in their four previous attempts at a .500 record this season.
“I wish (we could play more on the road),” Love said. “If it was that way we’d be over the doomed .500 mark that we can’t seem to get over. I really don’t even want to talk about it because it’s kind of been our Achilles’ heel.”
Minnesota hasn’t been .500 or better this late in a season since it was 22-22 on Jan. 30, 2007, and a visit from the Rockets wouldn’t appear its best chance to accomplish that feat.
Houston has won eight in a row at Target Center and 15 of the past 17 overall matchups. Another strong performance from Martin in Minnesota could help his team extend its streak.
The Rockets guard has averaged 30.0 points in his last four games there and 27.6 in his last seven overall matchups.
Love has scored at least 29 points in each of the two meetings this season and had a season-high 39 in the Jan. 23 defeat. Beasley tied a franchise record for a bench player with 34 points during the win in Houston.