The Minnesota Timberwolves are one a five-game losing streak, but a matchup with the Houston Rockets may be what the Wolves need to get back on track. The Rockets started the season strong, but have since dropped their last six consecutive games. Of course, the Houston Rockets will be thinking the same thing!
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...
With Pek out, expect Stiemsma to get his third start of the season. The Wolves have power forward/centers: Derrick Williams, Dante Cunningham, Lou Amundson and Greg Stiemsma. Expect them all to see a bump in minutes.
There are a few keys to winning this one...
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!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!