The Wolves have been decimated with injuries this season and with so many 'bodies' out, the Wolves could continue to struggle. Kevin Love (broken hand) and Chase Budinger (lateral meniscus tear) are both out until March, Malcolm Lee (knee/hip) is out for the season, Brandon Roy (knees) may never be back, Nikola Pekovic (thigh contusion) is expected to be out at least a week and Alexey Shved won't play tonight on that sprained ankle. Dante Cunningham is currently ill and is listed as a questionable for this one.
They'll be going up against a Houston Rockets squad who are without just one player: Royce White. I don't think it's a good idea for me to give my opinion on Royce and how he's handling himself in the NBA, it won't be anything kind.
The Wolves come into tonight's game 16-20 on the year, 10-6 at home, 9-13 vs. the Western Conference, losers of their last five games, 3-7 in their last ten games and currently ranked 10th in the West. The Rockets come into tonight's game 21-20, 7-13 on the road, 7-15 vs. the Western Conference, losers of their last six games, 4-6 in the last ten games and currently ranked 9th in the West.
One team tonight is going to get a much needed win/boost tonight and the Wolves desperately need big games from some usually unlikely contributors. Without Nikola Pekovic (the Wolves' leading scorer...beyond K-Love) Minnesota's interior presence in this game will be practically non-existent! 20pts & 10reb from D-Will, Rubio getting his shooting back on track, Ridnour continuing his solid offensive outings, Dante finding the mid-range jumper again, Greg Stiemsma proving he can do more than foul out in single-digit minutes, Kirilenko continuing his great all-around performances and J.J. Barea slicing up the D to finish with 20+ points and a number of easy assists as well. These are just a few things that need to be done individually. Minnesota improving their putrid shooting percentage and proving they can get defensive stops would help too. Pretty basic stuff. Easy to say, difficult to execute.
Starting the season the Wolves' starting five was supposed to be: Luke Ridnour, Brandon Roy, Andrei Kirilenko, Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic. Now, thirty-six games into the season the Wolves have undergone dozens of starting lineup changes. With so many injuries to so many key players, it's not a surprise that the Wolves are struggling on both ends of the floor.
Their resiliency has been key, however they need to string those kind of performances through four full quarters if they want this losing streak to end anytime soon.
The Houston Rockets have surprised many, many people this season. Jeremy Lin and James Harden have proven they'll be the backcourt of the future in Houston. Omer Asik has played well too and has the center position locked down. With upgrades at small forward and power forward, this team could be a perennial playoff squad and eventual contender in the next few years.
Let's take a look at the likely starting lineups...
Ricky Rubio (3.8P, 4.7A, 1.4S)
Luke Ridnour (11.8P, 4.3A, 1.1S)
Andrei Kirilenko (13.4P, 6.8R, 3.1A, 1.5S, 1.3B)
Derrick Williams (9P, 4.4R, 0.5B)
Greg Stiemsma (2.9P, 2.1R, 1.1B)
Jeremy Lin (12.2P, 3.9R, 6.2A, 2S)
James Harden (26P, 4.4R, 5.4A, 1.9S)
Chandler Parsons (14.6P, 6R, 3.5A, 1.2S)
Patrick Patterson (11.4P, 4.6R, 0.6B)
Omer Asik (10.6P, 11.2R, 1.1B)
There are a few keys to winning this one...
- You've got to slow down James Harden. Especially in the final quarter. He absolutely destroyed the Wolves in their last meeting in the fourth quarter. Do the Wolves have anyone who can guard him? Will Ridnour be covering him to start the game? I'd expect Luke to be on Lin to start the game and Rubio will be guarding Harden. When Harden slashes to the lane, you've the big men have to step into the lane and draw charges or force an alteration. If we want to win, he can't have one of his 30-point outings.
- Without their two best rebounders (Pek & Love), you should expect Minnesota to struggle on the backboard. The Wolves need to box out Omer Asik--make sure you get a body on him, or it's going to be a very long night. Hopefully Greg Stiemsma can figure out how to do something other than foul out in 10 minutes.
- You've got to run them off the three-point line. They have a number of talented marksman: Parsons, Harden, Delfino, etc. You've got to take away their perimeter players and force Houston's bigs: Patterson & Asik to beat you down low.
The Wolves have a slew of injuries, but they will be getting some bodies on the bench. Both Mickael Gelabale and Chris Johnson signed 10-day contracts prior to tonight's game. Gelabale is expected to play, but it's uncertain if Johnson will or not (I expect him to). With so few players, these two will definitely be seeing some court time tonight.
That's all for now, tipoff is set for 7pmCT, enjoy the game and GO WOLVES!