Scouting Report: Wolves (8-6) at Rockets (8-5) | Nov. 23, 2013

Scouting Report: Wolves (8-6) at Rockets (8-5) | Nov. 23, 2013


Timberwolves at Rockets | 7:00 PM — Toyota Center

Where to Watch: Fox Sports North, NBATV

Where to Listen: 830 WCCO-AM

After making a giant splash before the 2012-13 season when trading for James Harden, the Houston Rockets made a splash just as big by signing center Dwight Howard during the 2013 offseason.

There have been some growing pains, like any roster mix up. The Rockets are 8-5, good for 8-5 place in the Western Conference. With the superstar duo of Harden and Howard, though, coach Kevin McHale and bunch likely have higher expectations.

The Wolves are 8-6, good for eighth place in the West?

Speaking of McHale, he will be coaching against the team he was employed by from 1994 to 2009 in a variety of roles including general manager and head coach.

McHale has been coaching the Rockets since 2011, replacing Rick Adelman, who is now coaching the Timberwolves. Funny how things work.

With a win, Minnesota would put itself back on the map as an elite team in the West.

Last Meeting

The two teams last faced off March 15 last season at the Toyota Center and the Rockets came away with a 108-100 win.

Harden had an All-Star night, finishing with a game-high 37 points to go with eight assists and seven rebounds. The shooting guard was 16-of-18 from the free-throw line. Jeremy Lin added 24 points, eight rebounds and eights assists, while Chandler Parsons finished with 14. Greg Smith had a bench-high 12 points.

The Rockets outrebounded Minnesota 44-36.

Derrick Williams and J.J. Barea both led Minnesota with 19 points. The Wolves had all five starters scored in double digits, but shot 25 percent form the 3-throw line. Ricky Rubio scored 14 points to go along with seven rebounds and seven assists. Greg Stiemsma (now with Pelicans) added 12 while shooting 6-of-7 from the field. Both Mickael Gelabale (no longer in NBA) and Luke Ridnour (now with Bucks) scored 10 points each.

The Wolves had seven blocks (four from Stiemsma) compared to Houston’s two.

The Rockets were 3-1 in four games against the Wolves last season.

This Week’s Results

The Wolves rolled past the Nets on Friday night in Minnesota’s first matchup of this back-to-back set, 111-81 at Target Center. Minnesota got 17 points and 16 rebounds from Kevin Love, 17 more from Kevin Martin, 15 from Nikola Pekovic and 15 more from Corey Brewer. The Wolves jumped all over the Nets from the start, taking a 30-14 lead in the first and never looking back.

Previous to that win, the Wolves lost two tough games. On Tuesday, the Wolves fell 104-100 to the Washington Wizards on the road despite leading 12 points at half. Minnesota played the very next night at the Target Center against the LA Clippers and fell 102-98 despite 15 points in the fourth quarter from Kevin Martin.

The Rockets last played on Wednesday and fell 123-120 to the Dallas Mavericks on the road. The Rockets led by 14 points in the fourth quarter, but blew it, in big part to 72 combined points from Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki.

Howard had a season-high 33 points to go with 11 rebounds. Impressively, the center was 9-of-13 from the free-throw line. Howard is shooting 54.4 percent from the free-throw line this season, so that mark was well above average. Harden added 23 points, while Parson scored 21 points and dished out 11 assists. Omri Casspi led the bench with 11 points. Lin had a tough night off the bench, scoring just one point while shooting 0-for-5 with a +/- mark of -10, the worst in the game.

Going into that game, the Rockets were coming off three straight wins against New York, Denver and Boston, respectively.

What To Watch: Nikola Pekovic vs. Dwight Howard

One is considered one of the best offensive centers in the league, while the other is most effective on the defensive end.

Pekovic has been hot of late, averaging 16.4 points and 7.6 rebounds in his last five.

Howard isn’t the force inside that he used to be, but he’s still a force nonetheless. — 18.8 points, 2.3 blocks and a career-high 14 rebounds per game is nothing to scoff at.

Pekovic is averaging 14.2 points and 8.5 boards on the season.

Howard played well against Minnesota last season, averaging 18 points, 14.5 rebounds and 4.5 blocks in two games as a member of the Lakers.

Pekovic played in just one of those games and scored 19 points while matching Howard’s mark of 16 rebounds.

It will be interesting to see how the Wolves rotate defensively. It will be important for Pekovic to stay out of foul trouble especially with the injury to Ronny Turiaf. If Pekovic does happen to get in trouble, Gorgui Dieng will likely see time.

Injury Report

The Wolves will be without wing Chase Budinger, who is recovering from knee surgery. Turiaf (elbow) is out indefinitely. Rookie wing Shabazz Muhammad is expected to be available after spraining his ankle in Los Angeles on Nov. 10. He’s missed the last four games.

The Rockets will be without Smith (knee) until at least late November.

Probable Starters

  Timberwolves Rockets
PG Ricky Rubio Patrick Beverly
SG Kevin Martin James Harden
SF Corey Brewer Chandler Parsons
PF Kevin Love Terrence Jones
C Nikola Pekovic Dwight Howard


For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter.