Wolves at Rockets
7:00 pm CST
The Wolves and Rockets meet for the third time this season, but the first time in Hosuton after meetings in Mexico City and Minneapolis earlier in the year. The Wolves will be looking for their first victory of the season against the Rockets, who currently sit in third place in the brutally competitive Western Conference with a 37-18 record.
The Rockets will be without center Dwight Howard, as they have been for several weeks, but are led by MVP candidate James Harden, who is one of the best scorers in the league, averages nearly seven assists per game, and has upped his defense this season, which has contributed to the Rockets' 7th best defensive rating in the league.
This should be something of a track meet, as the Rockets like to get up the floor and look for early offense. They have the third highest pace in the league, driven in part by their high rate of committing and forcing turnovers. Much of their game is played in the open floor and/or early in the shot clock, as they look for the first open look they can get, almost always from behind the arc or near the rim.
The Rockets once again lead the league in 3PA while also being 6th in FTA, in large part thanks to Harden's 9+ FTAs per game. They attack the rim and look for shooters, rarely settling for mid range jump shots. One result of their plethora of three point attempts is a lot of offensive rebounds, a category in which they rank 4th in the league. They are much weaker on the defensive glass, and the Wolves will need to take advantage of that if they want to stay in the game.
The Wolves will get to see old friend Corey Brewer, who has played well for the Rockets since the mid-season trade that sent him to Texas. He's coming off a fantastic 26 point, 10 rebound, 5 steal performance in the Rockets' win over the Raptors on Saturday night and has been a big factor off the bench for them.
Three pointers were a huge factor in the two earlier meetings between these squads, with the Rockets making 25 over the two contests compared to the Wolves nine. Despite that, the Wolves were able to hang around, especially in the game in Minneapolis that went to overtime, by winning the turnover battle and getting on the offensive glass. They will have to do both things tonight to give themselves a chance.
The Wolves have won four out of their last six games, with Ricky Rubio's return serving as a catalyst for much more inspired play, and they are coming off an exciting 111-109 win at home against the Phoenix Suns on Friday. That game marked the debut of Adreian Payne, recently acquired from the Atlanta Hawks, and was the first game following the trade for Kevin Garnett, though he did not play that night and won't play tonight in Houston.
The Wolves are once again short handed due to injuries. Shabazz Muhammad, Robbie Hummel, Anthony Bennett, and Gary Neal are all out, and Kevin Garnett is not with the team. That leaves 10 players available tonight, and means likely heavy playing time for a guy like Payne who is the only true power forward available. Look for Gorgui Dieng to log more minutes at that position again tonight.
It's also possible we get a Glenn Robinson III sighting with limited wing options available. He's had very limited opportunities throughout the year, but tonight may be the night. We'll see.
Patrick Beverley Jason Terry
NOTE: Patrick Beverley is out with the flu. Jason Terry starts instead. Kostas Papanikolaou will also miss the game.
Here's a link to our blogging buddies over at The Dream Shake. Be excellent.
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Enjoy the game. Chat here. Go Wolves.