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Wolves at Rockets: Where are the Tall Guys?

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Two small ball teams meet up in Houston, and we get to renew acquaintance with old friend Robert Covington.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Boston Celtics Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Wolves at Rockets
7:00 pm CDT
FS North

The Rockets, who have consistently been ahead of the curve in NBA innovation, have made news again this season by completely eschewing the center position. They traded Clint Capela, and have committed entirely to a small ball concept that features two combo forwards—P.J. Tucker and Robert Covington—as the biggest players in the starting lineup.

It’s had its ups and downs, and the Rockets come in to tonight’s game on a four game losing streak against less than top-notch competition. They still, however, have a powerful offense that is 2nd in the league, and still take the most threes. This is a meeting of two high paced teams that should be jacking up a lot of perimeter shots. If one of these squads gets hot from beyond the arc, that could be the difference.

Of course the Rockets still feature two MVP winners in James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Harden is having another Harden season, jacking up threes and getting to the line at an absurd rate, and leading the league in scoring. Westbook has changed his game over the last couple of months, realizing he really isn’t a three point shooter, he’s been attacking the rim relentlessly. One of the real advantages the Rockets have is they take the second most free throws per game in the league. The Wolves will have to work to keep them off the line.

There are a lot of tough matchups for the Wolves tonight, particularly on the perimeter. Harden and Westbrook are physically imposing guards who are tough to keep out of the paint, and D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley are likely to struggle to stay in front of them. That puts immense pressure on the interior defense, where the likes of Naz Reid and Juancho Hernangomez are unlikely to be up to the task of defending the paint without fouling.

The Wolves can probably try to hide D’Lo on Danuel House, giving the Harden assignment to Josh Okogie, but the Wolves defense has been so porous recently that it’s hard to imagine them slowing down the Rockets scoring machine.

The best they can probably hope for is to have a strong shooting night and stay in the game that way, which, if it happens, could lead to an entertaining ball game. We’ll see.

Expected Lineups

Rockets

Russell Westbrook
James Harden
Danuel House
P.J. Tucker
Robert Covington

Wolves

D’Angelo Russell
Malik Beasley
Josh Okogie
Juan Hernangomez
Naz Reid

Our friends over at The Dream Shake have the Rockets story.