Scouting Report: Wolves vs. Rockets

Alex Conover
Web Editorial Associate

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Wolves (16-20) vs Rockets (21-19) — 7:00 PM Target Center
Where to Watch: No TV
Where to Listen: 830 WCCO-AM

View Timberwolves Game Notes

Got questions during tonight’s game? Send them to Wolves Radio via Twitter using the hash tag #WolvesRadio!

Things continue to get tougher for the injury-ridden Wolves, as they dropped their fifth straight game on Thursday night. The good news is that the Houston Rockets come to town, a team that has a five-game losing streak of its own. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on 830 WCCO-AM radio. Tonight’s game is not televised.

The Timberwolves keep saying their injury situation can’t get any worse, but somehow, it did on Thursday night. Key cogs Nikola Pekovic and Alexey Shved both left the court with injuries in the second half as the Wolves couldn’t keep up with the Los Angeles Clippers, losing 90-77. Luke Ridnour had 21 points for Minnesota, shooting 3-for-6 from the perimeter. Andrei Kirilenko logged 15 points, five rebounds and four steals.

Houston Breakdown

After a tumultuous offseason with many roster moves, many skeptics wondered how many wins Houston was going to be able to produce this year. But a blockbuster trade for James Harden added a true scoring threat to the roster, and a couple months later, it looks like a great decision for the Rockets.

Harden is tied for the fourth-best scoring average in the league with 26.3 points per game. A sixth man for most of his time in Oklahoma City, Harden is flourishing in Houston and has emerged as one of the league’s top scoring guards. Chandler Parsons sits behind him on the scoring chart with 14.3 per game, and Omar Asik is averaging a double-double with 10.3 PPG and 11.2 boards per contest. Jeremy Lin is handling the point guard duties, scoring 12.3 PPG and dishing out 6.3 assists per game.

Last Time Out: Dec. 26, 2012

Minnesota’s offense stalled for stretches at a time, leading to a 87-84 loss to the Rockets in a sold-out Target Center on Dec. 26.

Up at one point by as much as 14, the Wolves gave up 17 fourth-quarter points to James Harden. Harden attacked the rim hard, gaining points through lay-ups and free throws in willing his team back into the game.

“He’s a good player,” guard Alexey Shved said. “The first two quarters we played him great... but after he starts finding his game, he makes some shots.”

J.J. Barea led the Wolves with 18 points, and Shved had 16 of his own as the only two Minnesota players in double digits. Kevin Love led the effort on the boards with 12.

Key Matchup: James Harden and Andrei Kirilenko

You really can’t say enough about the emergence of Harden. Showcased as an absolute weapon off of Oklahoma City’s bench, he made the move to Houston via trade and proved himself as a premier threat on the wing. He is not afraid to push the ball with an up-tempo style, and the way he penetrates to the hoop with his patented “euro-step” footwork is effective and unique.

Kirilenko has voiced his frustration lately about the lack of transition defense in Minnesota. A true basketball mind, his brain is constantly analyzing the court and thinking a couple steps ahead. When he sees Jeremy Lin or Harden ignite a fast break, he will be one of the first ones running back on defense. Kirilenko has just the sort of length needed to alter Harden’s shot, and you can bet that they will be meeting plenty of times at the rim tonight.

Injury Report

The Timberwolves will be without Nikola Pekovic tonight, who will likely miss 7-10 days with a right quad contusion, according to President of Basketball Operations David Kahn. That means center Greg Stiemsma will likely get the start tonight. Alexey Shved is day-to-day with a sprained left ankle. Meanwhile, the Wolves were granted hardship exception and could make a 10-day contract signing or two in preparation for Saturday’s game.

The Houston Rockets should have everyone available for tonight’s game.

 

Tonight's Probable Starters
Position Timberwolves Rockets
PG Ricky Rubio Jeremy Lin
SG Luke Ridnour James Harden
SF Andrei Kirilenko Chandler Parsons
PF Derrick Williams Patrick Patterson
C Greg Stiemsma Omer Asik

 


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