- Who: Minnesota Timberwolves (19-21) at Houston Rockets (10-29)
- When: 6:10 PM CT
- Local TV: Bally Sports North (Michael Grady, Jim Petersen and Katie Storm)
- Radio: 830 WCCO-AM
- Line: Wolves -2 | Total: 230 (courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)
Let's keep the streak goin'.— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) January 8, 2023
Wolves at Rockets
6pm CT, Toyota Center
Preview » https://t.co/4KgoQbGB4Y pic.twitter.com/PQgazPPK4T
What To Watch For
As suggested by the Wolves only being favored by two points, Minnesota will likely be without Anthony Edwards (left hip soreness) for the first time this season as the they look to make it four wins in a row. Luckily, Edwards’ teammates will face the worst team in the NBA, the Houston Rockets. This should be a good spot for the Timberwolves to try and get Edwards some rest not only tonight, but potentially also on Wednesday in Detroit.
Let’s get to it.
Who Steps Up Offensively Without Ant?
No matter who has been available to suit up alongside him, Edwards has played incredibly hard as the engine that drives the Timberwolves offense. Now, his teammates will have to find a way to produce points against without him.
Thankfully, Houston has the 28th ranked defense according to Cleaning the Glass, in large part because they allow more fast break points (17.2 per game) and more points off turnovers (21.5) than any team in the league. The Wolves will need to do their work there, considering that the Rockets have been stout on the interior, allowing the fifth fewest paint points (47.0) per game this season.
Jaylen Nowell is likely to start in Edwards’ place; Nowell and D’Angelo Russell have a good matchup against the Rockets’ perimeter defense. Houston ranks 25th in the league in short mid-range field goal percentage (FG%) allowed (45%) per PBP Stats, which should benefit them greatly when coming off screens from Rudy Gobert.
The Rockets’ interior defense has been good at preventing shots at the rim, but rank 26th in opponent FG% at the rim (70%). Head Coach Chris Finch will once again need to call offense that helps stimulate as much ball movement as possible so that driving lanes and dump-off situations can open up. If that doesn’t happen, Gobert will have to attack the offensive boards again in order to make an impact offensively.
How much the Wolves get from Jaden McDaniels and Kyle Anderson will be important as well. They’ll have the height and strength advantages against Eric Gordon and Jabari Smith Jr., respectively. Getting downhill will be a key and those two should be able to do it off the bounce.
Containing the Rockets Perimeter
The Rockets’ record may not show it, but they do have one of the league’s more dynamic back-court batteries in Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green. Those two have combined to average 47.0 points per game in Houston’s wins, compared to just 38.8 points across 29 losses.
McDaniels and Nowell (or potentially Austin Rivers) will likely be tasked with slowing the impressive pair down. When they get into the paint, they have bene good at spraying the ball out to two solid shooters on the wing in Gordon and Smith Jr., who are shooting 36.0% and 32.9%, respectively, from deep this season. Limiting their 3-point shooting opportunities will be key, as I don’t foresee Green and Porter Jr. finding success consistently against Gobert, Anderson and McDaniels inside.
- Anthony Edwards (left hip soreness)
- Bryn Forbes (right shoulder soreness)
- Naz Reid (back spasms)
- Jordan McLaughlin (left calf strain)
- Karl-Anthony Towns (right calf strain)
- Darius Days (G-League assignment)
- Trevor Hudgins (G-League assignment)
- TyTy Washington Jr. (G-League assignment)