Trailing by as many as 26 points in the third quarter and playing defense that would make Spanish matadors proud, the Rockets looked like a team headed for the lottery once again.
Then they finally showed some heart.
The Rockets staged a valiant comeback, and trailed by just 7 points with still minutes to go, but couldn't get over the hump as the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Rockets in the season opener 106-98.
The Rockets are now 0-1 in this young 2000-2001 season, and are 5-7 historically playing on Halloween.
As was the case last season when the Rockets were pummeled often by the Wolves, it was too much Kevin Garnett and Terrell Brandon. Garnett scored 28 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and handed out 5 assists while Brandon 22 points and 9 assists.
It wasted a great second half performance from Cuttino Mobley, who finished with 33 points on 10-22 shooting. Maurice Taylor also was sharp in his Rocket debut, knocking down his first 7 shots (finishing 8-10) to the tune of 17 points.
Steve Francis however struggled, as he has in the past against Brandon. Stevie did score 15 points, 8 assists and 5 boards, but hit just 4-15 from the field and committed 6 of the Rockets' 18 turnovers.
The good news is since Kelvin "I will lead the league in rebounding" Cato grabbed just 3 boards he is due to grab about 26 in the next game to keep pace.
It was good to see Shandon Anderson (3 points) back, though he was very quiet on the court. Walt Williams finished with 8 points and 8 boards. Moochie Norris (8 points, 5 boards), wearing a red headband with the word "MOO" written on it, let the fro flow!
Behind Terrell Brandon, the Wolves jumped out to an early 9-0 lead before Dream snapped that with a jumper. One nice play saw Walt miss in transition but Francis came flying up and in one motion slammed it home with style, picking up a T for hanging on the rim.
The defense was non-existant in the first period with the Wolves running off 35 points and hitting 52% of their shots. Mo Taylor scored 8 to lead Houston, trailing 25-35 through one.
The second quarter was worse.
After a 9-0 run the Pups led 49-33, then they kept pouring it on. At the half it was 65-44 Minnesota and it was only that close thanks to a desperation 28-footer by Cuttino Mobley.
Garnett and Brandon had 16 points each while Chauncey Billups had 13 (thanks to 3-4 three-pointers). Minnesota shot at an over 55% clip.
The lone bright spot up to this point was Mo Taylor, who up to the early part of the third quarter was 7-7 from the field for 14 points.
The Rockets cut it to 94-83 with just over 6 minutes to go in the fourth after a Cato bucket, then after a Cuttino three, giving him 31 points, the lead was cut to 98-89.
The Rockets got within 7 and had the ball with 1:15 left, but Cuttino isolated his defender, drove, stopped and threw the ball away and that closed the door.