PREVIEW: Rockets at Wolves- Jan. 21

Jan 8, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Rockets center Alperen Sengun (28) drives with the ball as Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert (27) defends during the first quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

PREVIEW: Rockets at Wolves- Jan. 21

The Rockets will try to avoid a 13th straight loss when they take on the Minnesota Timberwolves Saturday night in Minneapolis. It’s the first of a back-to-back between the two teams, with a second game at Toyota Center coming up on Monday.

Eye on the Wolves

Record: 23-24 (T-8th in Western Conference)

Offensive rating (rank): 113.3 (15th)

Defensive rating (rank): 113.5 (18th)

The Wolves enter Saturday’s game having won 7-of-10, but they are banged up. A calf strain has kept Karl-Anthony Towns out for the last 26 games, and Rudy Gobert has missed the previous two games with a groin injury. Towns will not play against the Rockets, while Gobert and Anthony Edwards (hip) are questionable. Coming off a 25-point game against the Raptors on Thursday, D’Angelo Russell will play on Saturday, and he’s averaging over 18 points on 47% shooting over his last 14 games.

Matchup to watch: Rockets turnover offense vs. Wolves turnover defense

No team turns the ball over more than the Rockets, and only three teams force more turnovers than the Wolves, and that has reared its ugly head the first two times these teams have played this season. 21.4% of the Rockets’ possessions against Minnesota this season have ended in a turnover. They gave it away 23 times, leading to 36 points during November’s loss in Minneapolis, and their 20 turnovers led to 24 Wolves’ points on Jan. 8 at Toyota Center. The Rockets are likely to be without starting point guard Kevin Porter Jr., their most reliable ballhandler, and Jabari Smith Jr., one of their best floor spacers, so the deck is stacked against them.

What I’m watching for

The Rockets did all sorts of damage inside when these teams played 13 days ago, so the Wolves adjusted at halftime and packed the paint, daring the Rockets to beat them from long distance. It was a bet that worked out. The Wolves held the Rockets to 34 points on 32.5% shooting in the second half. The Rockets shot just 5-of-21 from behind the 3-point line and scored just 10 points in the paint. There’s a good chance the Wolves go back to this strategy, especially with Porter and Smith, two of the Rockets’ best 3-point shooters unlikely to play due to injuries. Only one team shoots the ball worse from 3 than the Rockets, and that’s when they’re at full strength, so Saturday will be a tall task if Minnesota sticks to the strategy that worked less than two weeks ago.

Related Posts:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *