Scouting Report: Wolves vs. Rockets

Alex Conover
Wolves Editorial Associate

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Wolves (13-12) vs Rockets (15-12) at 7:00 PM, Target Center
Where to Watch: Fox Sports North
Where to Listen: 830 WCCO-AM

View Timberwolves Game Notes

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After a one-game road trip to New York, the Minnesota Timberwolves venture back to Minneapolis to host the Houston Rockets at Target Center. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on Fox Sports North Plus and 830 WCCO-AM.

After leading for almost the entire game, the Wolves allowed Knicks super-scorer Carmelo Anthony to score 19 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter—leading his New York squad to a 94-91 comeback win at Madison Square Garden. The Wolves, who had to play without injured star Kevin Love, were led by Nikola Pekovic (21 points, 17 rebounds), Alexey Shved (18 points) and Luke Ridnour (14 points). Dante Cunningham recorded a double-double as well (12 points, 10 rebounds).

Houston Breakdown

If you play the Houston Rockets, be ready for a shootout. They average the top scoring output in the league (105.4 points per game), and they also allow the second-most scoring from opponents (103.4 per game). They also rank first in pace, making them the quickest, most transition-focused squad in the NBA.

Back when the Rockets acquired James Harden from Oklahoma City in late October and signed him to a max deal, many skeptics wondered if that was an overzealous move for a team in flux. So far, the move has turned out. Harden has started every game but one this year, averaging 25.6 points per game (fourth in the NBA). For a player who only started seven games in three years in Oklahoma City, Harden has blossomed in this new starting role. He’s supplemented by long forward Chandler Parsons (14.7 PPG) and Jeremy Lin (11.7 PPG, 6.2 assists per game). Center Omar Asik leads the Rockets in rebounding (11.4 RPG) and blocks (1.1 BPG).

Last Time Out: February 17, 2012

Kevin Love scored 33 points—including eight straight during a fourth-quarter stretch—and Nikola Pekovic added a career-high 30 points along with 12 rebounds as the Wolves silenced the Rockets, 111-98.

Houston had a nice run at the beginning of the fourth that cut Minnesota’s lead from 14 to one, but Love squashed their comeback effort with a run of his own. He also collected 17 rebounds for the 27th double-double of his season. Chandler Parsons scored 18 for Houston along with 17 each from Kyle Lowry and Courtney Lee.

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Key Matchup: James Harden and Alexey Shved

Harden is on a hot streak. When critics doubted his move to Houston, he gave them 37 and 45 points, respectively, in his first two outings wearing red and white. He did cool a bit afterwards, but he seems to be heating up again: he has not scored less than 28 points in his last four games. In a league that is seemingly short on truly elite shooting guards (most top scorers like Anthony, Durant or LeBron tend to line up at the 3 or 4), Harden is making a hard case for his inclusion among the NBA’s best at his position. And with his latest contract from the Rockets, it looks like the organization agrees, too.

Shved has emerged as a crucial cog for a team that is constantly in upheaval due to injuries. When Brandon Roy, Chase Budinger, Malcolm Lee and now Josh Howard all went down with knee injuries, Shved was virtually the last man standing. Luckily for the Wolves, the rookie from Russia is averaging 10.6 points per game, good for fifth among active players. He is also tied with JJ Barea for the team assist mark (4.5 per game), and we’ve all seen some of his passing flair at one point or another.

Shved can score—we know that. But tonight’s assignment is to guard likely his toughest test to date: James Harden. Until Kobe Bryant comes to town, Shved might not defend any shooting guard with more pure scoring ability. Limiting Harden is key for the Wolves tonight, and most of that burden will fall on rookie Alexey Shved.

Injury Report

Wolves forward Kevin Love missed Sunday’s game at New York after suffering an eye injury against the Thunder on Thursday. He is officially listed as questionable for tonight’s game. For Houston, power forward Patrick Patterson is out until at least January with a foot injury.

 

Tonight's Probable Starters
PositionTimberwolvesRockets
PGLuke RidnourJeremy Lin
SGAlexey ShvedJames Harden
SFAndrei KirilenkoChandler Parson
PFKevin Love*Marcus Morris
CNikola PekovicOmer Asik

*-Questionable for tonight

 


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