As it stands today, the Minnesota Timberwolves are one game out of the eighth spot in the West, which in and of itself sounds promising given that we’re just shy of the halfway mark on the season. The problem is that there are five – maybe six – other teams within striking distance of claiming that coveted last playoff spot.
Obviously a lot needs to happen with this team before we start chirping about the playoffs, but the fact that the Wolves have fought to remain in the “playoff picture” without roughly a quarter of their roster over the past few weeks comes as a surprising silver lining amid a bevy of injuries and illnesses.
Since Minnesota has snapped its abysmal 11-game losing streak, the Wolves have gone 5-3 without Karl-Anthony Towns, and much of that without Andrew Wiggins. While this combination of young no-names and league castoffs has held their own, they have yet to win against a team with a winning record. They came close in Milwaukee a week and a half ago, but another true test comes today against a savvy Houston Rockets squad.
Houston is comfortably positioned in the middle of the pack in the Western Conference led by none other than James Harden, who reignited his perennial MVP campaign the minute the 2019-2020 season began. Harden is currently averaging nearly 38 points per game, 7.5 assists and an impressive 6 rebounds. Harden has studied the game and its rules to the point where his nightly stats are all but written.
When these two teams faced one another back in November, the Wolves were able to disrupt Harden enough to the point where he shot just 39 percent from the field, but that didn’t stop him from putting up 49 points on the night. Trying to stop him is almost pointless – it’s containing him and stopping the pieces that surround him that the Wolves need to focus on in order to have a shot here.
In that same game, Ben McLemore put up 20 points, which is borderline inexcusable. Harden is a playmaker, so shutting down slashing from Russell Westbrook, corner threes from PJ Tucker and alley-oops from Clint Capela (if he plays) is important in order for the Wolves to have a chance in this one.
Wolves: Karl-Anthony Towns (Questionable), Jake Layman (Out)
Rockets: Clint Capela (Questionable), Gerald Green (Out), Nene (Out)
The folks over at The Dream Shake have Rockets coverage.