Injuries suck. The last time these teams met, the Rockets started Propeller Plane and Tarik Black. Additionally, Kostas Papanikolaou, Nick Johnson, and Francisco Garcia got heavy minutes. But that's just for the Rockets.
On the Timberwolves side, there were injuries too. Minny was missing Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Mo Williams, and Nikola Pekovic. At the time, I said that Minnesota the only team that understood what Houston was going through in terms of replacing starters and rotation players.
Fast forward 2-and-a-half months, and both teams are more whole than last time. Still, Dwight Howard will be out for Houston. Meanwhile, Minnesota just lost Anthony Bennett (ankle) for 2 weeks and Shabazz Muhammad (finger) for the season.
Note: the Timberwolves traded for Kevin Garnett at the Trade Deadline, but he won't play until Wednesday according to reports. The Rockets and Wolves play each other again in late March so it's still possible that we'll get the Dwight-KG rematch that no one is clamoring for.
Tip off is at 7pm CST.
Point Guard: Patrick Beverley vs. Ricky Rubio
Rubio has missed both games against Houston, so you can bet that Minny's offense will look a lot different tonight than it did in the previous meetings this season.
Since Rubio returned in February, the Wolves are 4-3 with wins over Phoenix, Detroit, Memphis, and Miami. And their losses have come against 3 of the best teams in the league (Golden State, Atlanta, and Dallas).
So what I'm saying is that Minnesota is pretty darn good when Rubio plays. And recently, Houston has been not too good when Beverley plays.
Shooting Guard: James Harden vs. Kevin Martin
Two of the best, most creative scorers in the game going head-to-head is always fun.
K-Mart has scored over 20 points in his last four games. We all know what he can do, even if it has been a few years since we saw it up close.
I'm expecting some cross-matchups here tonight with Wiggins guarding Harden and Ariza checking K-Mart.
Oh, and if you haven't read Max's post about how Harden will win or lose the MVP in the next two weeks check it out.
Small Forward: Trevor Ariza vs. Andrew Wiggins
The Rookie of the Year (seriously, can we just give it to him already?) is averaging 16/4/3 in his last 10 games and shooting 46% from the field. He hasn't been shooting the triple much recently but when he does he shoots it at a respectable 35% clip. One of the concerns about Wiggins' game was his shooting ability, but from watching him play Houston and looking at his statistics it seems that those concerns were overblown. He's still a terror driving the ball to the hoop and is a good wing defender thanks to his length and effort.
Um, Trevor Ariza is shooting 27% from distance in the last five games. Yikes.
Power Forward: Donatas Motiejunas vs. Gorgui Dieng
Anthony Bennett had started at this position in Minny's last game but with his ankle injury the Rockets might get the Louisville product that put together a couple of great games against Houston last year, including a 22/21 performance.
Whether he starts or not, the Rockets will need good D-Mo moving forward rather than the meh D-Mo they were getting up until the Toronto game. It's possible that D-Mo was getting a bit burned out after playing so many more minutes than in years past.
Center: Joey Dorsey vs. Nikola Pekovic
The T-Wolves have huge advantages at the smallest and biggest positions on the court. If Dorsey and company can limit easy baskets for Pekovic the Rockets could win comfortably. If not, this could be a long game, a la the last time these teams played.
Rockets: Propeller Plane, Corey Brewer, Josh Smith, Terrence Jones
Timberwolves: Adreian Payne, Zach LaVine, Gary Neal, Chase Budinger
Prediction: Houston blows late lead but holds on to win 111-104.
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