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Game Preview #63: Wolves at Rockets

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The epic battle for the 30th seed continues!

Central Military District holds Victory Day parade rehearsal in Yekaterinburg, Russia Photo by Donat Sorokin\TASS via Getty Images

The only 2 teams in the NBA who are eliminated from playoff/play-in contention face-off in an epic duel that will have major lottery implications.


Game Info

Who: Minnesota Timberwolves (18-44) at Houston Rockets (15-46)
When: 8:00 pm CT
TV: Bally Sports North PLUS
Radio: 830 WCCO AM Radio


What To Watch For

  • The Houston Rockets are currently 2.5 games “ahead” of the Wolves for the worst record in the NBA. According to Tankthon.com, they also have the 3rd hardest schedule for the remainder of the season (Wolves have 24th). Lastly, throw in the fact that John Wall is missing the rest of the season (whether or not you think he helps/hurts them), then it’s a foregone conclusions that the Rockets will nab that “top spot.” However, this still doesn’t change the fact that a Wolves loss tonight will still certainly help their own lotto odds. The teams to really keep your eyes on moving forward are the Orlando Magic (16th SOS) and Detroit Pistons (19th SOS), who the Wolves still have a game against respectively. The race to 40.1% continues.
  • If you recall just a handful of weeks ago, the Wolves split the previous back-to-back series with the Rockets. First, Houston flexed their tanking muscles by refusing to put the orange ball into the nylon hoop for the final 7:47 of the game, allowing the Wolves to “battle back” from a nearly 20-point deficit. Not to be outdone, the Wolves repaid the favor with a 22-point loss the very next day. In your face, Houston! I’m very excited to see what brand of basketball excellence we get this evening.
  • The Rockets will have just 10 healthy bodies to play tonight. That means the only thing standing between the Wolves and a 3-game winning streak is a starting line-up of Christian Wood, Kelly Olynyk, Danuel House, Jae’Sean Tate, and Kevin Porter Jr. (1st game action since 8 days ago due to health & safety protocol). The Wolves have routinely been outplayed by G-leaguers and 10-day contract guys, so they’ll really need to bring their A-game if they really want to win.
  • D’Angelo Russell has continued to scorch freeze defenses with his hot icy hot (?) shooting. He’s been averaging 23.3 PPG on .576 FG%, including 4.5 3PM on .514 3P% in his last 4 games. Whew. Does this mean that he’s finally settled into a longer term Manu Ginobili-esque role? Or does this mean that he’ll be reinserted into the starting line-up soon? Either way, it’s been fun watching D’Lo play some inspired basketball out there.

Injury Report


Predictions

  • The game is a back-and-forth affair in the 1st half. Neither team plays a semblance of defense (26th vs 28th DRtg) and D’Lo is able to lead the Wolves in points with 20 by the half. Meanwhile the Rockets are able to stay in the game behind MPEs from Kelly Olynyk and Danuel House, combining to hit 8 of 11 three pointers by halftime. Things get away from Houston in the 2nd half, as Coach Finch locks down the perimeter, continuing to demonstrate why he should deserve a couple votes for the COY award.
  • Ricky Rubio blesses us with the team’s 3rd alley-oop (my unofficial count) of the season, setting up Ant in fastbreak with a lob from half-court. In a passionate, but careless celebration, Josh Okogie accidentally punches a ref.
  • KPJ inefficiently guns his way to a 40-point night and we’ll see the comments section whip out their receipts, proving they had him THIRD on their big board with pick #11 of the 2019 draft. Speaking of the 2019 draft...
  • Much to the dismay of his small group of family and friends at the game, Jarrett Culver doesn’t leave the bench until the final 3 minutes of the game. After the game in the locker room, JC sadly swipes through Twitter insults on his T-Mobile Sidekick, wondering if it’d be appropriate to request a trade to the Houston Rockets where he’d fit in better. If that trade ever happens, he’ll obviously transform into an all-star on the back of his mom’s home cooking.
  • We get round 2 of the KAT vs Christian Wood duel with each player taking turns dominating the paint. Each fanbase cringes with every hard foul and tumble to the ground, knowing that this battle is all just for show. As Chris Finch is just about ready to sub KAT out in the 4th quarter, up 14 with 3 minutes remaining, assistant coach Bryan Gates puts his hand on Finch’s chest. “KAT’s just 2 points behind Christian on the stat sheet...
  • Wolves win; 131-119.