Game Preview: Houston Rockets vs Minnesota Timberwolves

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A night after setting the regular season record for three point makes on Friday, in route to their 20th win of the season, the Rockets head to Minnesota, looking for their 10th straight win. The Rockets are led in both scoring and assists by James Harden, at 27.7 points and 11.8 assists, and in rebounding by Clint Capela, who pulls in 8.1 rebounds a game. The Rockets now rank 3rd in offensive rating, 16th in defensive rating, and 4th, yes, 4th, in net rating.

The young Timberwolves come into Saturday's game 7-18, having dropped 4 of their last 5 games. The Timberwolves had high expectations going into this season with the hire of coach Tom Thibodeau, but have fallen well short of those expectations to start. The Timberwolves are led in scoring by Andrew Wiggins, at 22.2 points, in assists by Ricky Rubio, at 6.6 assists, and in rebounds by Karl-Anthony Towns, at 10.8 rebounds per game. So far this season the Timberwolves rank 10th in offensive rating, 27th in defensive rating, and 19th in net rating.

Starting Lineups

The Rockets are likely to continue to start with James Harden at point guard, Patrick Beverley at shooting guard, Trevor Ariza at small forward, Ryan Anderson at power forward, and Clint Capela at center, with Eric Gordon getting starter’s minutes.

The Timberwolves are likely to open the game with Ricky Rubio at point guard, Zach LaVine at shooting guard, Andrew Wiggins at small forward, Gorgui Dieng at power forward, and Karl-Anthony Towns at center.

Three Things to Watch

  • Timber-pups – The Timberwolves have, arguably, the best collection of young talent in the NBA, despite their poor record. The reason they haven't been able to play up to the level that many thought they would is because, as young players are, they are inconsistent. Many times throughout the season, and even throughout individual games, the Timberwolves look like a legit playoff team, but other times they look like a bottom dweller. Watch to see which version of the Wolves comes to play on Saturday.

  • Splash Gordon– Eric Gordon has been absolutely on fire in December. Through the nine games played this month, Gordon is shooting nearly 54% from three, on an insane rate of over 9 attempts a game, and is now only one three behind Steph Curry for most makes this season, despite playing 76 fewer minutes so far. Watch to see how long Gordon can continue his prolific shooting.

  • Getting to the line  – the Timberwolves are the fourth worst team in opponent free throw rate, having trouble keeping teams off of the line. Watch to see if Harden and the Rockets can take advantage of the Wolves foul happy play.

Prediction and Tip-Off

The Rockets continue play some of the best basketball in the NBA right now, but coming off of a back to back against a young, rested, Timberwolves team will not be a walk in the park. I think the Rockets will be able to keep their streak alive in a close one, moving to 21-7.

Tip-off will be at 7:00 P.M. Central Time in Houston on Saturday, December 17th. The game will be televised on ROOT sports, with the radio broadcast on Sports Talk 790-AM.

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