For the second time this season, the Timberwolves host the Rockets at the Target Center. Back on 12/26, the Rockets stunned the Wolves with a heavyweight performance from James Harden in the 4th quarter. Harden scored 17 of his 30 points in the final frame and helped put his team over the hump.
Saturday’s match-up is going to look quite different for the Wolves, as injuries continue to ravage the lineup. Add Nikola Pekovic to the list of injured Pups who will not be playing in Saturday’s game. Pekovic went down with a strained quad on Thursday night and the team announced he is likely to miss the next 7-10 days. Alexey Shved will likely be a game time decision with his sprained ankle, which also occurred in Thursday’s loss to the Clippers. This would be funny if it weren’t so depressing.
Adding insult to injury, the Pups come into Saturday’s game on a five game losing streak. The bandwagon has seen a mass exodus over the past few weeks. While there is no official news on Mickael Gelabale (as of writing this on Friday night) it is expected that he will take the place of Lazar Hayward on the roster. If he is in the United States, I hope he is ready to suit up tomorrow night and put in a few minutes on the court. Beyond Gelabale, you can start throwing names against the wall and see what sticks. Here are a few worth mentioning: Jonny Flynn, Ryan Gomes, Troy Hudson, Kenyon Martin, and Michael Redd. Any and all of these guys need to be, at the very least, considered right now.
Would you like a bit of good news? The Rockets are actually on a slightly longer losing streak right now than the Wolves are. So there’s that. As seen the night after Christmas, the Rockets are clearly led by James Harden and everyone else has a role to fill. Chandler Parsons and Omer Asik bring it on most nights, but beyond these two, there are a lot of question marks throughout the roster. The Rockets are currently right there for that 8th slot in the Western Conference and will be looking to put more distance between themselves and the Wolves Saturday.
Player to watch:
James Harden – Not knowing who is playing for the Wolves night in and night out is going to mean that these previews will largely focus on an opponent for some time. As mentioned above, Harden is clearly the catalyst for this Rockets team. With Shved either not playing, or at the very least, hampered by his sprained ankle, it will be interesting to see what the Wolves do on the defensive end of the floor. Paging Andrei Kirilenko, please move over to the SG position for an evening.
Match-up to watch:
Ricky Rubio vs. Jeremy Lin. Linsanity vs. Rubio-oops. Neither has necessarily set the house on fire this season but it is the most intriguing matchup among the expected starting fives. Rubio provided a few quotes after Thursday’s loss and you can sense his frustration with losing and not performing to what he is accustomed to. I don’t see Rubio as someone who will press himself and play worse (like Barea). I see this actually being a good thing / turning point. (Because my Pups predictions have been fairing so well these past few weeks…)
Despite the Rockets playing on Friday night in Atlanta, I just have to see the Wolves win a game before I believe it, given the latest injury news.
Final score prediction: Twolves 82, Rockets 94
Three stars of the game predictions:
- James Harden
- Ricky Rubio
- Omer Asik
Let’s go Wolves!