- Who: Minnesota Timberwolves (23-24) vs. Houston Rockets (10-35)
- When: 7:00 PM CST
- Local TV: Bally Sports North Extra (Michael Grady, Jim Petersen and Katie Storm)
- Radio: 830 WCCO-AM
- Line: Wolves -8.5 | Total: 238.5 (courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)
❇️ STATEMENT SATURDAY ❇️— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) January 21, 2023
Wolves vs. Rockets
7pm CT, @TargetCenterMN
» @BallySportsNOR EXTRA
Preview » https://t.co/fwSOlmamA9 pic.twitter.com/RndgmgjUhn
What To Watch For
Play With Pace
Despite running in transition on only 14.8% of their possessions (19th in the league), per Cleaning the Glass, the Timberwolves have an excellent opportunity to exploit the Rockets’ faulty transition defense. So far this season, the Rockets are allowing 1.348 points per play in transition, which ranks dead last. They also allow the highest frequency of transition offense as 16.7% of their defensive possessions are in transition.
Teams are able to run on Houston so frequently because the Rockets are incredibly aggressive on the offensive glass. Their offensive rebounding rate of 32.4 is the highest in the league. The Wolves must be cognizant of boxing out and securing rebounds. By doing so not only ensures the ending of possessions, but also lets them quickly initiate the transition offense.
The Rockets’ guards are porous defenders at best. With their more athletic forwards and wings constantly crashing the offensive glass, these guards are left as the last line of defense when they don’t get the offensive rebound. As long as the Timberwolves can reliably rebound, they should have a plethora of easy transition scores.
Don’t Settle for 3s
The Rockets allow the highest frequency of 3-point shots at 40.7% and the fifth lowest at-rim shot frequency of 31%. Due to their defensive misgivings, and generally undisciplined defense, the Rockets are focused on taking away the easiest shot in the game. As they pack the paint, there will be plenty of temptation to settle for 3-pointers but that will be a mistake.
The Timberwolves are shooting just 35.8% from 3 as a team (19th) but 68.7% at the rim (7th). Even though the Rockets do a great job of limiting the frequency of at-rim shots, they can’t defend the rim at all. Currently, the Rockets are allowing opponents to shoot 70% at the rim (27th).
There shouldn’t be any excuse for Minnesota to not feast at the rim tonight. If Rudy Gobert plays, he can easily get to 20 points on lobs alone. Even if he doesn’t, Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell can thrive out of the pick-and-roll while off-ball scorers can relentlessly attack closeouts. When they aren’t running in transition, the Timberwolves must be patient and determined about attacking the rim.
Can D’Lo Keep the Hot Streak Going?
The conversation surrounding Russell has gotten exhausting. Is he perfect? Obviously not. Is he as bad as some fans try to paint him out to be? That answer is also no. Recently, Russell has been extremely productive.
Over his last six games, Russell is averaging 17.3 points, 5.0 assists, 50% from the floor on 11.7 attempts, and 50% from 3 on 6.3 attempts. Over that same span, Russell is also averaging only 2.3 turnovers giving him an assist to turnover ration of 2.2, which is similar to that of Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, and CJ McCollum.
One of the big changes with Russell recently has been him playing more off-ball. Edwards’s continuing evolution as a primary initiator has allowed Russell to slide into a role he’s always been more effective and comfortable in. By playing him more off-ball, the Timberwolves get a more reliable off-ball shooter, they limit the complexity of the decisions he has to make, in turn reducing his turnovers, and they have someone who can run a second side pick-and-roll. Against the Rockets, Russell should have an excellent opportunity to knock down open 3s, snake his way to the rim, and set up teammates for easy scores.
- Anthony Edwards — Left Hip Soreness
- Rudy Gobert — Right Groin Soreness
- Austin Rivers — Left Knee Contusion
- Jordan McLaughlin — Left Calf Sprain
- Karl-Anthony Towns — Right Calf Strain
- Josh Minott — G-League Assignment
- Wendell Moore Jr — G-League Assignment
- Jabari Smith Jr - Right Ankle Sprain
- Kevin Porter Jr - Left Foot Soreness
- Darius Days - G-League Two-Way
- Trevor Hudgins - G-League Two-Way