LINK Scored 15 points on the same day!
Chris Johnson and Mickael Gelabale signed 10-day contracts with the Timberwolves in the morning, just hoping for an opportunity to prove they belong in the NBA.
In the evening, that opportunity turned into a prime-time showcase against the Houston Rockets at Target Center.
Newcomers Johnson and Gelabale played all 12 minutes in the fourth quarter Saturday night, Jan. 19, and led their team to a 92-79 victory.
Johnson, a slender 6-foot-11 center, scored the Wolves' first eight points of the fourth quarter. Gelabale, a 6-7 forward from France, scored 10 of his 11 points in the frame. By the time the quarter ended, the duo had combined to score 23 of the Wolves' 29 points in the period.
What really made the fourth quarter special were "M-V-P" chants from the crowd of 16,799 when Johnson stepped to the free-throw line with 9:18 left in the game.
"I don't agree with that at all," Johnson said with a smile. "This is a great fan base here. They were just showing support."
It had been awhile since Wolves' fans had something positive to embrace. The injury-plagued Wolves entered the game with a five-game losing streak, but the sight of Johnson and Gelabale igniting the team at clutch time prompted fans to show more appreciation than usual.
"You always smile when new guys come to the team and they succeed," forward Andrei Kirilenko said. "They were great replacements. They both did a great job of bringing energy, and that's what we've been lacking in the
Johnson and Gelabale did more than give the Wolves' offense a late spark. Gelabale, a second-round pick of the Seattle Sonics in 2005, did a creditable job on Houston guard James Harden.
The Wolves pursued Gelabale in part because of his length and perimeter defense. Harden was limited to four points and four shot attempts in the fourth quarter. He also was harassed into a turnover when Gelabale was draped all over him in front of the Wolves bench.
Harden couldn't find a teammate to pass to and eventually fell down, resulting in a traveling call, which made Wolves players and coaches jump in jubilation.
Johnson, who was in the Wolves' training camp this fall, had two blocked shots on one Rockets possession and was later rewarded for running the floor when he got lob pass from Luke Ridnour for a dunk.
In the fourth quarter alone, Johnson and Gelabale combined to make 6 of 9 shots and 11 of 13 free throws, and pulled down eight rebounds.
"I don't recall in my experience getting two guys like that, just having them step in and putting in the type of work for us at both ends of the floor," Porter said. "Both of them had tough assignments at the other end."
Johnson finished with a career-high 15 points and six rebounds; Gelabale had 11 points and four boards. The Wolves had only nine players available for Saturday's game with center Nikola Pekovic (thigh bruise), Alexey Shved (ankle sprain) and Dante Cunningham (illness) unable to play.
Because of the Wolves' injury problems, many of the team's healthy players have been asked to play more minutes. Johnson and Gelabale delivered the ideal scenario -- performing well enough to spark a win and allowing Porter to rest some of his regulars in the fourth quarter.
"We have two guys who didn't even practice with us, and they did an unbelievable job," Wolves guard Ricky Rubio said. "That's what we needed. It's been tough with not having enough fresh bodies. They helped us a lot."
The 10-day contracts don't give Johnson and Gelabale much time to make an impression, but they got off to an impressive start.
This post was edited on 1/21 at 3:48 pm