Scouting Report: Wolves vs. Rockets

Wolves (11-12) vs. Rockets (13-10) - 7:00 PM Target Center
Where to Watch: No local/League Pass
Where to Listen: 830 AM WCCO

*Get your questions on the radio airwaves during halftime! Just tweet questions to @WolvesRadio and listen to the halftime show hosted by John Focke on WCCO 830 AM.

If members of the Timberwolves and Rockets weren’t already familiar with one another heading into this season, they’re sure to be well-acquainted by the time the 2012 All-Star Break rolls around.

The two franchises seemingly swapped personnel heading into the season, with Rick Adelman and his coaching staff leaving Houston for Minnesota and longtime Wolves general manager and coach Kevin McHale taking Adelman’s place on the Rockets’ bench. But tonight at Target Center, the Wolves and Rockets will face each other for the third time in this young season and will play a fourth time Feb. 17 in Houston. Tonight’s tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

The two clubs split the first two meetings, each winning on the road. Houston stole a 107-92 win on Jan. 23, and Minnesota bounced back with a 120-108 victory on Jan. 30. In that last victory, Minnesota put up a franchise best 42 third quarter points and played one of its most complete games of the season—halting a streaking Rockets squad which had won nine of 10 coming in. Houston has lost two of three since.

By the numbers

Tonight’s matchup marks the first of six consecutive road games for the Rockets, who played Friday at home for the last time until Feb. 15. Houston is 3-7 in road games this season compared to 10-3 at the Toyota Center. Meanwhile, Minnesota is 5-8 at home compared to 6-4 on the road and is looking to turn things around at Target Center tonight. The Wolves have their sixth shot at reaching the .500 mark for the first time this season tonight, and they’ll play four of their next five games at home.

Beasley’s big night

The last time these two teams met, Wolves forward Michael Beasley had a breakout game. Beasley scored 34 points on 10-of-14 shooting from the floor, knocked down a pair of 3-pointers and was 12-of-12 from the free-throw line. He’s come off the bench since coming back from a foot injury that sidelined him for 11 games, and that 34-point performance tied a team record for most points by a reserve in franchise history. Beasley is averaging 14.5 points per game this year and has scored 11 and 10 points, respectively, in his two games since that Jan. 30 matchup.

Key matchup: Kevin Martin vs. Wolves shooting guards

One thing shooting guard Kevin Martin proved in both games against the Wolves this season is he’s going to get his points. He scored 31 and 29, respectively, in the two matchups this season and at 6-foot-7 he poses defensive problems for the Wolves quick but shorter back court. Minnesota played essentially a three-guard rotation for much of Friday’s matchup with the Nets—Ricky Rubio, Luke Ridnour and JJ Barea—all of whom are point guards who help open up lanes on the offensive end but do from force Adelman to be creative in his defensive pairings when it comes to lengthy shooting guards. Anthony Morrow, the Nets’ 6-foot-7 shooting guard, scored 42 points on Friday against the Wolves. Wolves guard Martell Webster, who has played in the past five games after returning from back surgery, played 22 minutes in the last game and at 6-foot-7 is the best size matchup against Martin. He played three minutes against the Nets.

Pekovic breaking out

Adelman has been adamant about playing center Nikola Pekovic more and more in the past two weeks, because as he put it Pekovic is playing himself into the lineup. A bruising force in the paint, the 6-foot-11, 290-pound Pekovic produced his second double-double of the season and third of his career in Friday night’s 108-105 win over New Jersey—tallying 27 points and 11 rebounds on 11-of-14 shooting. He played a season-high 34 minutes in the win and is not only a presence on the offensive boards but is also becoming a viable scoring option, which takes pressure off forward Kevin Love in the paint.

“”He’s separated himself,” Adelman said at practice this week. “The last two weeks he’s played really well, so I have a lot of confidence in him. He’d be someone you’ve got to make sure he’s in the game every game.”

Double-double central

Forward Kevin Love continues to put up big numbers this season. Last night he recorded his league-best 21st double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds. He’s currently first in the league in minutes played (39.5 MPG), second in rebounding (13.5 RPG) and fourth in scoring (25.0 PPG). Along with Love and Pekovic notching double-doubles against the Nets, rookie guard Ricky Rubio scored 10 points and added 10 assists for his 10th point-assist double-double of the year. He’s tied with New Jersey’s Deron Williams for the league lead in point-assist double-doubles—Williams put up a 12-point, 14-assist effort against the Wolves on Friday. But Rubio is also making his presence felt defensively. He had six steals against New Jersey, including one with five seconds left that iced the Wolves 108-105 win.

In the Wolves and Rockets’ first meeting this season, Houston point guard Kyle Lowry put together a triple-double with 16 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds. Between Lowry and Martin, the Rockets have an explosive back court that can put up consistent offensive numbers. Minnesota will be tasked with trying to contain both tonight.

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