The Timberwolves started the season 5-2, but have lost four of the last seven games. They cruised to an easy win over the Brooklyn Nets last night, but Minnesota's biggest struggles this season have come on the road. Minnesota is 2-4 on the road and are looking to avoid a fourth-straight road loss.
The Rockets have had an up-and-down season early, themselves. Houston is coming off a 120-123 loss to the Mavericks in Dallas. Houston led by 18 points in the third quarter, but Dallas stormed back for a three-point victory. The Rockets are 5-2 at home this season and are seeking a fourth-straight home win.
This matchup will feature two of the NBA's premier offensive squads. The Wolves are the third-best offensive team averaging 107.3 points per game. The Rockets are the best offensive team in the NBA averaging 109.7 points per game. It should be a high-scoring affair in Houston tonight. The Wolves are also the only team in the NBA with two Top-10 scorers (Love & Martin)! The Rockets are averaging 113.7 points per game during their three-game winning streak at home, but the Wolves have allowed 110 points per game during their three-game losing streak on the road.
The Rockets made headlines this offseason with their acquisition of Dwight Howard. He certainly gives this team another dimension and much more dangerous. GM Daryl Morey has made some GREAT moves these past two summers--acquiring two of the NBA's Top-10 players. Morey has also done a decent job of adding a mixture of young and veteran talent.
The biggest headline involving Houston right now is Omer Asik's trade requests. After a number of years playing behind Joakim Noah in Chicago, Asik signed a big contract with the Houston Rockets last summer. He had the best year of his career as the team's starting center. Then, the Rockets went out and found a replacement and once again Asik found himself playing backup to an All-Star center. Head Coach McHale tried to play to two big men together--starting them both in the frontcourt together for a number of games to start the season. That experiment didn't work out to well and when Asik was moved to the bench, rumors of him demanding a trade surfaced once again (they had before just after Houston signed Howard). Now, the Rockets are starting Terrence Jones next to Howard in the post. Jones helps space the floor a bit more because he can knock down that mid-range jumper. It sounds as though Omer Asik won't be a Houston Rocket by the February Trade Deadline.
Luckily the Wolves are coming off a that easy win over the Nets. No Wolves starter played more than 28 minutes, besides Martin who played 31. That's good news in the second night of a back-to-back.
The Wolves will be without Chase Budinger (knee), Ronny Turiaf (elbow) and likely Shabazz Muhammad (ankle). Updates about them can be found in our Injury Report. The Rockets will be without big man Greg Smith (knee). Smith had an MRI a week ago that came back negative, but he is still out a few days. Ronnie Brewer has missed two-consecutive games with a calf injury and is questionable for this one.
Let's take a look at tonight's starting lineup...
The Wolves will have their hands full in these matchups tonight. I expect Corey Brewer to match up with Houston's leading scorer in this one (Harden), which would leave Martin to guard Houston's third-leading scorer Chandler Parsons who still averages almost 17 points per game. Kevin Love & Ricky Rubio have it a little easier tonight, though Rubio will be tasked with guarding Jeremy Lin when he comes into the game. Lin has been thriving in a sixth man role for Houston this season and is averaging 16.3 points per game in 31.7 minutes per game.
However, the matchup I'm most looking forward to is the battle in the paint: Nikola Peković vs. Dwight Howard. Two of the NBA's strongest big men going head-to-head. Nikola Peković had two of his best games this season against one of the NBA's premier shot-blockers (the Clippers' DeAndre Jordan). Going into those games vs. the Clippers, I assumed Pek would get blocked a number of times and struggle, but it was the complete opposite and he just dominated inside. I'm really hoping for a big game from PEK!
Tipoff is set for 7pmCT from the Toyota Center in Houston, enjoy the game and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!