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Game Day: Houston Rockets vs Minnesota Timberwolves

By Tamberlyn Richardson
Dec 13, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (right) and guard Andrew Wiggins against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Suns defeated the Timberwolves 108-101. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 13, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (right) and guard Andrew Wiggins against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Suns defeated the Timberwolves 108-101. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
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Game Day: Houston Rockets seek fifth consecutive win, play Minnesota Timberwolves

Tonight marks the first of three meetings between the Timberwolves and the Houston Rockets this season. While the home town Rockets enter the contest on a 4-game win streak they need to learn from their season long inconsistency and not take these young T-Wolves for granted. The Atlanta Hawks lost both games to this upstart squad earlier this season and they’ve also surprised top teams on the road beating both Chicago and Miami. Simply put this Minnesota squad are on the rise and but for a call or one play here or there could be sitting in the playoffs.

This match has all the makings for a trap game and given Houston didn’t really rest anyone in their win last night they’ll need to proceed with caution as the Wolves don’t know any better than to bring 100% effort every night.

The Details

Venue: Toyota Center, Houston TX,

Game Time: 8:00 PM EST – 7:00 PM CT

TV: NBA League Pass, ROOT and FS North

Radio: 790 AM and 830 WCCO

Recent History:

The Rockets swept the Wolves last season

Walking Wounded:

Wolves:

  • No injuries listed, Pekovic available to play and Garnett may be rested based on Wolves tendency to rest him in back to back situations

Rockets:

  • Ty Lawson   Completed his 3 game suspension last evening vs. Memphis so is eligible to play tonight
  • Donatas Motiejunas – back, out until January 19th at a minimum
  • Sam Dekker had bad surgery is out 3 months or until at least February 15th

Projected Starters:

Wolves: Ricky RubioAndrew WigginsTayshaun PrinceKevin Garnett, Karl-Anthony Towns

Note: with Garnett playing last night vs. OKC and Nikola Pekovic ready to return it’s likely the Wolves will rest Garnett and play Pekovic

Rockets: Patrick Beverley, James HardenTrevor Ariza, Dwight Howard, Clint Capela

Key Reserves:

Wolves:Shabazz Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng, Nemanja Bjelica Zach LaVine

Rockets: Corey BrewerMarcus Thornton, Jason TerryTy Lawson , K.J. McDaniels, Montrezl Harrell

Key Match-up:

There are many intriguing pairings to chose from between Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins vs James Harden and current ROY candidate (and front runner) Karl Anthony-Towns versus either of Dwight Howard or Clint Capela.

Having watched a ton of the Wolves this season (they and the Magic are my guilty pleasures of NBA League Pass) there is a real calmness and maturity from both youngsters. Neither needs to rush their game or take unnecessary shots as they are already proving to be team first guys.

These two teams are at very different stages; the Rockets want to win now and have made the moves this past summer to do so (albeit without showcasing the results). Whereas the Wolves have been building their youthful core through top picks in the draft and adding depth via veteran talent to help build the core. The young Wolves look well positioned to continue that growth and should be a competitive factor in the NBA very soon and for an extended period. For them making the post season would be a valuable learning experience. Even after losing 8 in a row the Wolves sit just 6 games out of 8th. Any other year in the West that would mean the season was over, but not this year.

Wolves vs Rockets
Wolves vs Rockets

Keys to Winning:

  • Keep turnovers down: The Rockets have to be careful handling the rock because this team can kill you on transition.
  • Keep the streak alive: As per usual the team has moved on from a 4-game losing streak following it with their current 4-game win streak.  With a relatively even schedule on tap now is the time to climb the ladder in the West while teams are still flailing to find their footing. Another losing streak could well knock the Rockets out of the post season all together especially if young upstart teams like these Wolves or the Utah Jazz string together a win streak of their own!
  • Ball and Player Movement Is Critical: Both teams can jump on the other in transition with miscues so when on offense it’s important to keep the ball moving via quick accurate passing.
  • Don’t buy the lower rank hype: The reality is these Timberwolves actually boast a much better defense than the Rockets and are just as capable of posting big scoring nights as Houston. What’s more they have depth albeit young on their bench.
  • Capitalize behind the arc: the Wolves haven’t been defending the perimeter well or late which bodes well for the Rockets who just happen to be hitting from behind the arc at their best clip this season.

More from Space City Scoop

The Pick:

I have to admit I’m a bit incredulous the Rockets are favorites by 8.5 points. Both teams played last night and in truth the Wolves have demonstrated more consistency in games (especially on the road) this season. The T-Wolves almost shocked the Thunder with a close call comeback effort last night that fell just short whereas the Rockets were lucky to get their victory over an under manned Memphis team. Still the home town Houston crowd are the ones getting the nod with a projected over – under of 205.5 points and early action leaning toward Houston.

Prediction: While the Rockets have been playing better of late and closing games out with more intensity what has to still be proven is their ability to win the games they should (revisit Denver and Brooklyn if you doubt me). Couple that with the fact the Wolves have some big wins on the road this season and something tells me this could be a dog fight or should I say wolf fight.

I have a strange feeling this one isn’t going to roll Houston’s direction especially if either LaVine or Muhammad step up to join Wiggins and KAT with scoring.

Wolves by 3

For more exciting news and stories on the Minnesota Timberwolves visit our affiliate Fansided site: Dunking With Wolves

Next: Wolves Team Preview - Ascending Youth

Make sure you catch up on our entire Team Preview Series, our Houston Rockets Player Profile Series as well as our SCS Round Table Sessions to help you get through the early season. Start your morning with SCS Rocket Science Daily and visit us throughout the day to keep abreast of all your Houston Rockets news and updates.

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