Jan 4, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards (1) celebrates during the third quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
PREVIEW: Wolves at Rockets- Jan. 8
The Rockets will try to end their six-game losing streak when they host the Minnesota Timberwolves at Toyota Center on Sunday night. It’s the first of three meetings between the two teams in January with the Wolves slated to return to Houston in 13 days, and then the Rockets will visit Minneapolis two nights later.
Eye on the Wolves
Record: 19-21 (11th in Western Conference)
Offensive rating (rank): 112.7 (17th)
Defensive rating (rank): 112.8 (14th)
Despite failing to meet lofty expectations, the Wolves arrive at Toyota Center winners of three in a row, but they have struggled to a 7-12 record away from Target Center. Acquired in a blockbuster trade from Utah this summer, Rudy Gobert has underperformed, and the pairing with Karl-Anthony Towns has really struggled, especially on the offensive end of the floor, but Towns has missed the last 19 games with a calf strain, and the Wolves are 9-10 since he’s been out. Minnesota has struggled with turnovers this season, with 15.7% of its possessions ending in a turnover, the fifth-highest mark in the league. Even with Gobert, the Timberwolves are 29th in defensive rebound rate, which sets up well for a Rockets team that leads in the NBA in offensive rebound rate.
Matchup to watch: Eric Gordon vs Anthony Edwards
Edwards is questionable to play against the Rockets on Sunday after he left Friday’s game with a hip injury. The top pick of the 2020 draft started to blossom into a star during last year’s postseason, and his numbers are up across the board in his third NBA campaign. He’s averaging 23.7 points per game this season on 46% shooting. He’s up to 36% from behind the 3-point line, and he’s averaging 5.6 free throw attempts per game. Gordon will likely start the game against Edwards, but the return of Jae’Sean Tate gives the Rockets another strong option.
What I’m watching for
The Rockets don’t go into many games with a clear advantage in any aspect of a matchup, but that won’t be the case on Sunday. Houston is the NBA’s best offensive-rebounding team, while only one team secures defensive rebounds at a lower rate than the Wolves. Minnesota’s defensive rebounding rate is 69.2%, and it allows 14.8 second-chance points per game, while the Rockets enter Sunday’s game averaging 17.1 second-chance points thanks to a 33.9% offensive rebounding rate. The only way the Rockets can take advantage of this is to get shots up, which means they have to avoid turnovers, but the Wolves force 15.6 turnovers per game, seventh most in the association, while the Rockets are the NBA’s most turnover-prone team.