It looks like the Minnesota Timberwolves will be getting back an important set of eyes as they host the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night.
Kevin Love, who sustained an injury to his eye late in Minnesota’s victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, is set to start against a surging Rockets team fresh off a Christmas dismantling of the Chicago Bulls.
The Rockets have been one of the biggest surprises of this NBA season. After shocking the basketball world by obtaining rising superstar James Harden from the Thunder, the Rockets have turned what was supposed to be strictly a rebuilding season into legitimate Playoff contention. Houston, 15-12, currently sits one seeding ahead of the 13-12 Timberwolves, and will battle former head coach Rick Adelman in an important Western Conference showdown.
Led by new acquisitions Harden, Jeremy Lin, and Omer Asik, the Rockets march into the Target Center hoping to end Minnesota’s 5 game home winning streak. Should the Timberwolves win, it would mark their longest home winning streak in six seasons.
Do not be surprised if Ricky Rubio plays more than 18 minutes tonight, as the Wolves coaching staff has stated that they will begin to slowly increase his workload as he begins to strengthen his lower body and his surgically-repaired knee. Rubio has struggled getting back up to speed since his impressive debut against Dallas, and his previous 18 minute limit has kept him from getting in a rhythm with his new teammates. Rubio has shot just 3 for 16 from the field since returning to action, and has displayed decreased explosiveness and cutting ability, which was anticipated given his predicament.
Nikola Pekovic has enjoyed a breakout season and is quickly becoming one of the top interior forces in the Western Conference. He faces an excellent up-and-coming center in Asik, and will need to be on his game if he is to effectively score on one of the top interior defenders in the league.
The key to this game for the Timberpups will be containing Harden, as it is impossible to completely shut him down. Since joining the Rockets, Harden has looked every bit as fierce as he was at Arizona State, where he played the role of primary scorer and distributer. The athletic SG can score from anywhere on the floor and is at his best when he is running in transition, effectively finding open teammates and exploiting holes in opposing defenses. Lin has progressively improved as well this season, and is beginning to find his shot that he showed off so well last season for the New York Knicks.