Game Preview: Houston Rockets vs Minnesota Timberwolves

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Following a blowout win over the Pelicans, the Rockets head home to face the young Timberwolves. Holding firm at 3rd in the West, the Rockets have tied their win total from last season, at 41-18. The Rockets are led in scoring, assists and rebounds by MVP candidate James Harden, at 28.9 points, 11.3 assists, and  8.2 rebounds a game. The Rockets are ranked 2nd in offensive rating, 13th in defensive rating, and 3rd in net rating.

The Timberwolves are on the outside looking in, sitting at 22-35, after a win over the Mavericks, three games out of the playoffs in the West. The Wolves are led in scoring and rebounding by Karl Anthony-Towns, at 23.7 points and 11.8 rebounds, while Ricky Rubio leads them in assists at 8.4 per game. The Timberwolves rank 11th in offensive rating, 23rd in defensive rating, and 16th in net rating.

Starting Lineups

We should expect more of the same from the Rockets, 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 to start the game, with Eric Gordon and possibly Lou Williams, getting starter’s minutes.

The Timberwolves will be without explosive swingman Zach LaVine on Saturday, as he will be out for the season with a torn ACL. The Wolves will likely start the game with Ricky Rubio at point guard, Brandon Rush at shooting guard, Andrew Wiggins at small forward, Gorgui Dieng at power forward, and Karl Anthony-Towns at center.

Three Things to Watch

  • Sweet Lou – The day before the deadline the Rockets traded for bench scorer Lou Williams, who made his debut Thursday with no practice or even a shoot around, and didn't disappoint. In his first game as a Rocket, Lou made a career high seven threes on his way to 27 points in only 26 minutes. Watch to see how Lou Will follows that debut performance on Saturday.

  • Pace and Space vs Slow and Steady – Though both teams are top 11 offensively, they do their damage in very different ways. The Rockets are one of the faster and three-point-happy teams in the league, sitting at 4th in pace and 1st in three point attempt rate, while the Timberwolves rank just 24th in pace and 28th in three point attempt rate. Watch to see how these two styles clash and which team is able to set the tempo early.

  • Third Time Around – These two teams have split the season series 1-1 so far this season. Something very interesting about the first two meetings is that both games were in Minnesota and the second half of a back-to-back for the Rockets, but now the tables have turned, as the Wolves head into Houston after just playing the night before. Watch to see if the loss and unnecessarily close victory were attributable to fatigue over anything else.

Prediction and Tip-Off

The Rockets have struggled to put away the Timberwolves like they should, but I expect that to change in a Rockets win, with the Rockets' added firepower and the Wolves coming off the first game of a back-to-back.

Tip-off will be at 8:00 P.M. Central Time in Houston on Saturday, February 25th. The game will be televised on ROOTSPORTS with the radio broadcast on Sports Talk 790-AM.

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