Wolves (32-37) at Rockets (43-26)
ESPN/FS North +
Coming off a few road blowouts, things don’t get any easier tonight for the Timberwolves as they head into Houston.
With the roster mostly healthy, Minnesota should still look to play the players, specifically on the wing, that they want to evaluate moving forward. Sure, Andrew Wiggins will undoubtedly receive playing time, but Ryan Saunders should look to get Keita Bates-Diop and Cam Reynolds as many minutes as possible.
Now, that sounds easier than it probably will be in reality for Saunders given his allegiances to Wiggins, but for my own viewing pleasure I hope to see more of KBD and Reynolds than Wiggins.
It’ll be interesting to see how KAT attacks Clint Capela and company tonight. Capela famously gave Towns some problems in the playoffs last year, but KAT has been in such a groove recently that it’s hard to imagine anyone giving him too much trouble.
Houston switches literally everything, so it’s unlikely that KAT will be posting Capela up frequently, but his ability to post up P.J. Tucker as well as others without committing offensive fouls will be important to his production tonight. In the past, Tucker’s feisty defense has given KAT fits and gotten him into foul trouble.
For Houston, it sounds like they will be without MVP candidate James Harden (shoulder) in this one. That’s a welcome sign for Minnesota defenders. However, that also means that Chris Paul is going to be running pick-and-rolls every time down the floor. That’s not exactly a thrilling option for Minnesota especially given Capela’s roll ability and the multitude of shooters that will be flanking Paul.
It sounds crazy to say, but there’s a real possibility that this Harden-less team is a bigger problem for the Wolves tonight. Harden is unbelievably gifted in isolation. Even with the way that Josh Okogie impressed against him last time, he still ended up with 42 points.
What is really scary is that now, one of the best point guards of all time is going to be running non-stop PnR’s against one of the worst PnR defenses in recent memory. It is so incredibly predictable how every team with a top-flight PnR ball-handler dices this team up.
If the Wolves were to stop the CP3-Capela PnR, I can’t imagine it happening without a heavy dose of switching. The more traditional PnR defenses don’t work against the Rockets. Going under the screen is obviously not an option. If you drop the big and let your guard fight over the top, Paul is just going to live off the mid-range jumpers he is so deadly at. If you commit help to Paul with Capela’s defender, that leaves Paul with two pretty appetizing choices. He can either throw a lob to Capela if you don’t help off of shooters, or, if you do help on Capela, he’s going to find the open shooter for a three. None of those are great options.
Therefore, the only route I really see as being somewhat successful is letting Towns or Gibson or whoever else is out there try to limit Paul in isolation as much as possible off of the switch. It’s not a great option by any means, but it’s the only one that doesn’t intentionally leave someone open for the Point God.
Unfortunately, if this season has taught us anything, it’s that Minnesota will end up allowing Chris Paul to dissect their defense all night long, making for a painful viewing experience.
Bet of the night
I’m in no way saying that you SHOULD make these bets. I’m not betting them. It’s just a fun extra thing that I’ll be tracking for the remainder of the season. All lines via Bovada.
Back in Denver, the Wolves defense gave up a ghastly 133 points in order for us to pick up a much needed victory at get to 7-9. It doesn’t feel good to pick against the Wolves like that, but their defense is just so consistently terrible on the road.
The pick: Over 225 Total Points (-110)
So, I wanted to keep this one pretty simple. I think there’s a pretty good chance that Houston hangs a big number on the Wolves tonight, even without Harden. I also think that, with most of their guys back, the Wolves are going to be able to score pretty effectively tonight. It would be surprising to me if the score of this game stayed below it’s current number. The Wolves seem to come to play against the Rockets, which could put the 7.5 spread in play, but I’d rather just count on the total points coming in rather than covering a spread.