Minnesota Timberwolves (1-5) vs. Houston Rockets (0-5) at Toyota Center
This will be the first (but not the last) game for the Timberwolves against an opponent with a worse win-loss record. The Rockets, who held a lead over the Los Angeles Lakers on opening night, blew that lead and continued on to lose games to Golden State, Denver, New Orleans and San Antonio. Yao Ming did not play in Saturday's game against the Spurs and the center has had strict limits put on his minutes. It is also unknown whether Kevin Martin and Aaron Brooks - both of whom left the Spurs game with left ankle sprains - will play in this game.
"We need a win," admitted coach Rick Adelman, whose Rockets have had the team's worst start since the 1999-2000 season. That team won its 6th game against the Lakers. After losing to the Wolves tonight, the Rockets will have to go back to 1982-83 to find a Houston team with a worse start to the season.
Let's break down the matchups:
Yao Ming vs. Darko Milicic
I'll admit it. Darko Milicic could be having a better season. He is shooting 17% from the floor (6-of-35). He's only grabbed 5 rebounds a game. He has had 12 turnovers to only 5 assists. And if he continues to score at his current pace (3 PPG), the Timberwolves will be paying Darko $17,725 for every point he scores this season.
So what is the cure for Darko? Some ancient Chinese medicine known as the Rockets' centers. Yao Ming is being treated by Coach Adelman like Mr. Glass from the movie Unbreakable. He is averaging 12.7 points and 7.3 rebounds in just over 22 minutes per game. The vet Brad Miller is shooting only 35% on the year and has yet to make a shot from behind the arc. And Chuck Hayes is so short, he could have played Mini-Me in the above iMac commercial.
Darko should be able to shut down the Rocket centers, and although his patented no-touch hook shot might be hard to get off around Yao, he can save it for the other 3/4ths of the game when he is facing a better matchup.
Meanwhile, if Mr. Glass had an exact opposite, it would be Nikola Pekovic, don't you think? That guy truly is unbreakable. Of course, if Yao gets anywhere close to Pekovic in tonight's game, I think its pretty much an automatic 15-day DL stint for Mr. Ming. Let's hope Adelman plays it smart and goes with Hayes.
Winner: Darko Milicic
Luis Scola vs. Kevin Love
Luis Scola has had a history of winning awards. He was the Rookie of the Year in the Spanish League, the Spanish Supercup MVP, a two-time Spanish League MVP and a two-time FIBA Americas Championship MVP. He even finished NBA All-Rookie and placed 3rd in Rookie of the Year voting in the NBA.
Tonight, however, he goes against Kevin Love, who is quickly becoming the most popular player on a non-playoff team in the NBA. #freekevinlove has gone viral and Bill Simmons is openly hoping that Love gets traded away from Minnesota. People would not be making such a fuss over Love if he were only the 2nd best player on a team that won 15 games last season. People would not care as much if Love were barely the best player on a team that is projected to win no more than 25 games this season by every major media outlet.
I think people care so much because they know that having Kevin Love on this team means automatic wins, since Love is really an MVP candidate in Wolves' clothing. No one wants to see small market Minnesota in the Finals. If Love is traded to Los Angeles for Sasha Vujacic and a nude spread of Jeanie Buss, then ABC and ESPN might be happy. But he's not being traded. He'll continue his Hall-of-Fame like stats on Minnesota and lead us to a championship.
Winner: Kevin Love
Shane Battier, after exiting the Rockets' locker room area.
Shane Battier vs. Michael Beasley
Shane Battier once advocated that the NBA reduce the number of games they play every year to 58. Battier also asked that, as part of that reduction, he would never have to face the Minnesota Timberwolves in any of those 58 games.
On Sunday night, Battier will have to contend with Michael Beasley, who has quickly become a fan favorite in Minnesota. Beasley is, by far, the Wolves' best scorer and best playmaker with the basketball, although he can get too bogged down shooting outside jumpers.
Michael Cooper once compared Battier to a "garbage collector" because "you don't notice them unless they don't do their job. They handle the messes and the stinky stuff." This, of course, means that you will be noticing Shane Battier tonight. A lot. And just like that time when Kobe dropped 40 on him and a game full of "you can't guard me!" in the first round of the playoffs, Shane Battier will have to say this about his matchup with Beasley:
"What can I say that's going to erase the fact that he's scoring  points on me?"
Winner: Michael Beasley
"Hi kids. I'm Kevin Martin. Look at this picture I drew of myself. Aren't I great?"
Kevin Martin vs. Wesley Johnson
According to his Wikipedia page, Kevin Martin was the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission after being nominated by George W. Bush.
Whoops, wrong Kevin Martin. Sorry.
No, this Kevin Martin is an American professional basketbal player, known for his knack for scoring, deceptive quickness and unorthodox shooting style. Sure, his "knack" for scoring. Scoring inefficiently. I'm not really sure what "scoring efficiently" means, since you'd think you'd be happy anytime the ball goes in the hoop (I was told that was the objective of basketball), but Kevin Martin is terrible at it. He's so inefficient at scoring, he should just walk off of the court and go home.
"We don't want those points," screamed Daryl Morey, after Kevin Martin made a three-point shot against the Spurs in last night's game. "Score those efficiently next time!" Morey soon had Martin pulled, telling the media it was a "left ankle sprain", and not revealing that he was really benched for his lack of efficiency.
Sure, Martin is averaging 23.4 points per game, but only 10 of those points have been scored efficiently. Meanwhile, 100% of Wesley Johnson's points have been scored efficiently. So much so that Kurt Rambis has given him the nickname "Six Sigma".
Winner: "Six Sigma" Johnson
Aaron Brooks vs. Luke Ridnour
If Aaron Brooks cannot go against the Timberwolves, Kyle Lowry will likely get the start for the Rockets. Lowry has had an impressive three DNP-CDs so far this season and is hoping to get at least 40 DNPs by the end of the year. Lowry is also shooting 3-of-14 from the floor this year (21%) and has had 6 total assists in the two games he has played for the Rockets.
If Brooks does end up getting the nod, it will be fun for Wolves' fans, since we'll get to be reminded of how Jonny Flynn plays basketball. Not many assists. Decent scoring. Ball pounding. Poor defense. If you didn't know any better, you would think that Flynn had bought a fake goatee at a Halloween store and a Rockets jersey at Foot Locker.
And although Luke Ridnour (a fellow Duck) is a decidedly average point guard, every Wolves' fan has said the followings words at some point this preseason/season: "Luke Ridnour is the best point guard in Minnesota since Sam Cassell". So, have fun with Jonny Flynn, Houston. We don't have to deal with the real Jonny Flynn for at least another month.
Winner: Luke Ridnour