It's a bit weird that the Timberwolves were the home team when there is doubtless a larger Spurs fanbase in Mexico than a Wolves presence. In addition to a Spanish-speaking star player in Manu Ginobili, geographically speaking it made more sense for it to be a Spurs home game. What's more, the Timberwolves were only slated to get the Spurs one time at home, and that game got forfeited to Mexico. All around it was a weird call by the NBA. I understand not wanting to send SA-Houston down to Mexico because of division implications, but if the NBA really wanted to expand its brand they would send SA down with Phoenix or the Lakers.
But hey, I don't run the league. If I did, the Rockets wouldn't play 873 back-to-backs every season.
Anyway, both teams have gotten a lot of rest prior to this game and both were in Mexico City yesterday doing some community outreach stuff with the Special Olympics. I realize that "expanding the game" is a euphemism for "international money grab," but as long as the league is doing good things like this people won't notice as much.
Minnesota is 2-4 but their losses have all been tough. They lost at Memphis by 4, to Chicago by 1, in Orlando by 1 in OT, and by 10 in Miami on a back-to-back. And one of their two wins was in Brooklyn. So this is not a team to be taken lightly, even without their star point guard.
Tip off is at 9pm CST.
Point Guard: Isaiah Canaan vs. Zach LaVine
Ricky Rubio is out with a severely sprained ankle so the Rockets will face Zach LaVine.
LaVine was the 13th pick in the draft this season out of UCLA. In his first start against the Heat he went 5p/6r/4a.
This will be Canaan's first game starting against a point guard with even less experience than he has. I'd love to see him take advantage of the rookie.
Shooting Guard: James Harden vs. Kevin Martin
Remember to categorize Harden's free throws as a 1-4 based on Xiane's scale from his last post (a must-read, by the way).
Speaking of getting to the free throw line, it's Kevin Martin! Surprisingly, he only got to the line 4 times in 2 games against Houston last season.
Small Forward: Trevor Ariza vs. Andrew Wiggins
I thought that the Wolves made out like bandits in the Kevin Love trade. I'm sure they wanted a pick too, but it's safe to assume that Cleveland's picks for the next couple of years will be low. And by working the Sixers into the deal, Minny got Thaddeus Young and a $6.3 million trade exception (that they're unlikely to use).
And all Rockets fans can exhale that Corey Brewer isn't starting here after scoring 51 against Houston last season. He could get heavy minutes off the bench, but with Ariza here I'm going on a limb and saying that Brewer won't duplicate that number.
Power Forward: Donatas Motiejunas vs. Thaddeus Young
Thaddeus Young could be 40 years old and I would give him the advantage. In reality, he is better than D-Mo and has the savvy to take advantage of this matchup. Plus, he's burned the Rockets too many times for me to foolishly underestimate him. Because he reads this obviously.
Once forgotten in the purgatory of Philadelphia, Young is scoring less in Minnesota through six games, but is doing so more effectively. With more weapons around him, Young is getting better looks at the basket and doesn't have to take as many shots. But in this matchup, I expect him to take plenty of shots.
Center: Dwight Howard vs. Nikola Pekovic
Dwight took part in the Special Olympics activities, so I'm pretty sure he's gotten over his flu-like symptoms. He'll need his full capacity to take on Pekovic, who's a beast inside.
Last season, Pekovic only played in one game against the Rockets and had 14/7.
I'll just leave this here:
Not bad, but not as good as this classic.
Rockets: Propeller Plane, Tarik Black, Kostas Papanikolaou, Troy Daniels
Timberwolves: Chase Budinger, Robbie Hummel, Shabazz Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng, Mo Williams, Corey Brewer
Prediction: Rockets win 110-98.
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