It’s a battle of a pair of teams currently in the Western Conference playoff picture in the Twin Cities. The Houston Rockets are on the road again as they face the Minnesota Timberwolves Sunday night. Houston was on the road Saturday as they visited New Orleans in a Southwest Division matchup. Minnesota was on the road as they were in San Antonio to face the Spurs Saturday night. The Rockets lead the all-time regular season series 75-40 and have taken five straight and 13 of the last 14 meetings: that includes all three contests this season. In the last matchup, Houston claimed a 120-102 home win on February 23.
Houston Rockets Try to Keep Rolling Along
Houston was on the road as they traveled to face the Pelicans in a matchup of the top two teams in the Southwest Division Saturday night. The Rockets entered that contest 9-1 in their last 10 games and winners of three straight contests. Houston has the top record in the league, leading the Warriors by 2.5 games in the race for the top spot in the Western Conference. The Rockets have clinched the Southwest Division title and a playoff berth already. Houston is 27-8 on the road and 34-8 against the Western Conference so far this season.
The Rockets are above average offensively: they are 2nd in the league with 113.7 points per game. Houston is 17th in rebounding with 43.4 boards per game and 24th with 21.7 assists a night. The Rockets are 11th in scoring defense as they allow 104.7 points per game. James Harden leads the team with 31 points per game while grabbing 5.1 boards and dishing out 8.7 assists a night. He missed seven games with a hamstring strain before returning against the Timberwolves January 18. Eric Gordon is putting up 18.4 points per contest while Clint Capela averages 14.1 points plus 10.9 rebounds a night. PJ Tucker and Ryan Anderson (10 points, 5.3 rebounds) each are key secondary options this season. Nene Hilario, Gerald Green, Joe Johnson, Trevor Ariza (12.1 points, 4.5 boards, 1.52 steals), Chris Paul (18.8 points, 8.1 assists, 1.78 steals) and Luc Mbah a Moute are key pieces in the rotation as well. The Rockets are 13th in the league in field goal percentage, shooting 46.4 percent as a team. Houston is 1st in the league with 15.4 threes a night while the team is tied for 14th by shooting 36.5 percent from long range this season.
Minnesota Timberwolves Battling Without Butler
Minnesota was on the road themselves as they traveled to San Antonio to face another Southwest Division team in the Spurs. The Timberwolves entered Saturday’s game 5-5 in their last 10 games but had won two straight contests, including a 116-111 road win over Washington their last time out Tuesday. Minnesota was fifth in the Western Conference, 14.5 games behind the Rockets for the top spot in the West. The Timberwolves were 2.5 games behind Portland for the lead in the Northwest Division but sat only two games ahead of ninth-place Denver in the crowded Western Conference. Minnesota is 26-8 at home and 29-13 against the Western Conference this season.
The Timberwolves come into this game 6th in scoring with 109.8 points a game. Minnesota is 23rd in rebounding with 41.9 boards a night and 15th in assists by dishing out 22.7 dimes per contest. The Timberwolves are 17th in scoring defense as they allow 107.2 points per game. Andrew Wiggins is third on Minnesota with 17.9 points plus 4.1 boards a game. Karl-Anthony Towns averages 20.7 points plus 12.2 rebounds, Jamal Crawford adds 10.2 points a night, Jimmy Butler kicks in a team leading 22.2 points and 5.4 rebounds while Jeff Teague adds 13.6 points plus 6.9 assists a contest: he returned to the lineup January 10 after missing seven games with a sprained MCL. Minnesota has to get production from Gorgui Dieng, Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson (12.4 points, 7.2 rebounds), Tyus Jones and Nemanja Bjelica as their bench group. Butler suffered a torn meniscus against the Rockets February 23: he underwent surgery on the 25th and is considered out until early April at best. The Timberwolves are 3rd in the league in field goal percentage as the team shoots 48 percent from the floor. Minnesota is 29th in the league in threes with 7.9 per game and is tied for 20th in the league in three point shooting as they’ve hit 35.6 percent of their attempts from downtown.
- Rockets are 9-1 ATS in their last 10 road games vs. a team with a winning home record
- Rockets are 8-1 ATS in their last 9 road games
- Rockets are 7-1 ATS in their last 8 road games vs. a team with a home winning % of greater than .600
- Timberwolves are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 home games vs. a team with a road winning % of greater than .600
Both teams have to travel back for this game after playing on the road. The one edge in travel goes to Houston as their game with the Pelicans tips off at 7 pm ET while Minnesota doesn’t tip in San Antonio until 8:30 pm ET. The Rockets are playing with house money, especially with the Warriors missing three of their All Stars at the moment. Minnesota is still fighting in the Northwest Division and to keep breathing room in the playoff picture. The Timberwolves are good at home but Houston has been good everywhere. The Rockets won the first three meetings this season: look for them to make it a four game season sweep here.
Pick: Houston Rockets -7
Houston has been blistering with 20 wins in their last 21 games: their lone loss in that span came by three on the road to a Toronto team that has won 11 straight and 18 of their last 19 themselves. The Rockets hold that 2.5 game edge over the Warriors for home court advantage throughout the playoffs in the Western Conference: with Golden State missing Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, one has to wonder if the Rockets can lock it up. Minnesota is holding their own without Butler, who is due back in a couple weeks with any luck, but in the crowded Western Conference playoff race, any prolonged slump could knock a team down or out of the playoff picture.
The over is 6-1 in the Timberwolves’ last 7 home games vs. a team with a winning road record, 6-1 in their last 7 home games, 11-3 in their last 14 overall and 10-3 in their last 13 vs. a team with a winning straight up record. The teams have gone over the total in six of the last seven meetings in Minnesota and 13-3 in their last 16 meetings overall. Given the explosive nature of both offenses, even playing the second game of a back to back, this one could go over the total.