#707 Houston Rocketsvs.#708 Minnesota Timberwolves
Written by Chris Kubala
Houston Rockets (30-9 SU, 26-13 ATS, 22-17 O/U) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (12-26 SU, 17-21 ATS, 18-20 O/U)
NBA: Wednesday, January 11, 2017, Target Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 8 pm ET
Line: Houston -3; Over/Under: 218.5
It’s a contest between teams at opposite ends of the Western Conference standings. The sizzling Houston Rockets take on the struggling Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. Houston had won eight straight heading into Tuesday’s home tilt with the Hornets. Minnesota snapped a four game slide and climbed out of the Western Conference basement by downing the Mavericks 101-92 at home Monday. The Rockets have won eight straight meetings, including a 111-109 overtime win in the first matchup this season on December 17, 2016 here.
Houston was on a roll entering into Tuesday’s home game against the Hornets. Whether the Rockets can maintain that momentum in the second game of a back to back remains to be seen. Houston entered Tuesday in third place in the Western Conference, 2.5 games behind the Warriors for the top spot. The Rockets trailed the Spurs by one game in the Southwest Division standings. Houston is 14 games ahead of the ninth-place Kings so it would take a massive collapse to fall out of the playoff picture. The Rockets are 15-6 on the road this season and have gone 20-6 against the Western Conference this season.
The Rockets are well above average offensively: they are 2nd in the league with 114.6 points per game. Houston is 8th in rebounding with 44.8 boards per game and 2nd with 25.8 assists a night. The Rockets are 24th in scoring defense as they allow 107 points per game. James Harden leads the team with 28.2 points per game while grabbing 8.2 boards and dishing out 11.8 assists a night. Eric Gordon is putting up 17.8 points per contest while Trevor Ariza (12.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.08 steals) and Ryan Anderson (14 ppg, 5.3 rebounds) are scoring in double figures. Nene Hilario, Clint Capela (11.8 points, eight rebounds, 1.57 blocks), Patrick Beverley, Sam Dekker and Corey Brewer are key contributors. The Rockets are 5th in the league in field goal percentage, shooting 47 percent as a team. Houston is leading the league with 14.9 threes a night while the team is 6th by shooting 37.4 percent from long range this season.
Minnesota managed to get back in the win column as they knocked off the Mavericks. It’s a safe bet that the Timberwolves are going to have a tougher time knocking off the Rockets. Minnesota ran to a 14 point edge after the opening quarter against Dallas and kept the Mavericks at bay the rest of the way. The Timberwolves hit a scorching 56.3 percent from the floor despite missing 10 of 16 three point attempts in the game. Minnesota pounded Dallas 42-25 on the boards to help overcome 18 turnovers. Karl-Anthony Towns led the Timberwolves with 34 points in the victory.
The Timberwolves come into this game 19th in scoring with 103 points a game. Minnesota is just 21st in rebounding with 42.9 boards a night and 11th in assists by dishing out 22.5 dimes per contest. The Timberwolves are 16th in scoring defense as they allow 104.5 points per game. Andrew Wiggins is leading the team with 21.9 points per game while Zach LaVine is contributing nicely with a 20.4 point per game mark. Karl-Anthony Towns puts up 21.7 points plus 11.6 boards while Gorgui Dieng (10.6 points, 7.9 rebounds) is a solid low post presence. Kris Dunn and Tyus Jones are running the point remarkably well as rookies and split time with Ricky Rubio. Shabazz Muhammad, Brandon Rush, Jordan Hill and Cole Aldrich are reserves that Minnesota looks to for valuable minutes. The Timberwolves are 13th in the league in field goal percentage as the team shoots 45.5 percent from the floor. Minnesota is tied for 27th in threes with 8.1 per game and is tied for 18th in the league in three point shooting as they’ve hit 35.2 percent of their attempts from downtown.
Houston is playing the second game of a back to back but with the momentum that the Rockets have going for them right now, it might not matter. Minnesota is coming off a win over Dallas but expecting them to shoot 56 percent from the floor again is a fool’s errand. The Timberwolves tend to wilt in the second half against good teams. I expect that trend to continue: even if Houston struggles early, they get things going in the second half and pick up the win.
We’re looking at a couple of teams that love to play a fast tempo and push the pace. Houston is extremely efficient offensively, at least when they get shots. They do tend to turn the ball over a fair amount, leading to easy transition baskets for the opposition. Minnesota has one of the league’s most explosive young trios in LaVine, Wiggins and Towns who continue to develop and will be a force for years to come. They, too, need to learn how to protect the ball and play defense.
Houston has gone over the total in each of their last four Wednesday games, in each of their last six against Western Conference foes, in six of their last seven against teams with a losing record and in eight of their last 10 overall. Minnesota has gone over in six of their last seven against teams with a winning record. In the last ten meetings between the teams, the over has come up in nine of them. Even playing the second game of a back to back, you have to expect a point bonanza from the Rockets.
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Christopher Kubala has been crunching stats and following sports for over 30 years. His in depth analysis and passion for sports have led him to writing books about sports, regularly being featured on sports talk radio and as the go-to person for any obscure trivia. He keeps an eye on transactions and statistics like a hawk, especially when it comes to football, both the NFL and college, the NHL, the NBA and college basketball and MLB.