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Houston Rockets vs. Minnesota Timberwolves game preview

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The Rockets return to Toyota Center to host the struggling Minnesota Timberwolves.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Firstly, I would like to welcome back anyone who is just coming back to The Dream Shake. We've been having a good time here.

Secondly, it's about time we welcomed back the Houston Rockets. I'm sure they aren't fully "back" yet, but suddenly the glimpses of last year's team, often few and far between this season, are becoming more and more regular. Decimated by injuries, they took down Utah twice. Down 13 to the Pacers, they fought back and won. And in an environment that has been anything but friendly to them, they beat the Grizzlies on the road.

Maybe they'll lose their next 5 games and go back to the team they've been for most of the season. Or maybe this is the start of something a little more fun.

As for Minnesota, they took a hard loss last night to the Oklahoma City Thunder at home. Both teams flew into Houston last night and neither probably arrived before midnight. So, expect some tired legs from both sides with Minny having the youth to possibly fight through it.

While Houston is coming in on a 4-game winning streak, the Timberwolves have dropped their last 7 games. If this Rockets team has turned a corner, they'll take care of a pesky Wolves squad that always gives them plenty of trouble. If Houston hasn't changed, then it will be just like the Brooklyn games where Houston didn't take their opponent seriously and got burned.

Tip off is at 7pm CST.

Matchups:

Point Guard: Patrick Beverley vs. Ricky Rubio

A favorite around these parts and around Rockets Nation, Rubio is averaging 10/9/5 this season on 34% shooting. He's been putting the ball in a little better over his last 10 games (38%), but still it's a shame that such a great point guard will never be able to channel the full potential that many envisioned that he would attain.

Meanwhile, Patrick Beverley has been Patrick Beverthree for Houston lately, scorching the Earth with a 52% mark from distance since mid-December. Plus, he's kept his turnovers down despite the rest of the Rockets deciding to throw the ball around like candy on Halloween.

Advantage: Timberwolves

Shooting Guard: James Harden vs. Andrew Wiggins

(Hubie Brown voice) Look, we all know Harden takes the most free throws in the league, okay. And you like that.

But then you've got Andrew Wiggins taking the fifth-most free throws in the league, all right. And that's good. He's a young player and you like that he's attacking the basket. We've said for years that getting to the line is the next step in becoming a great player.

In all seriousness, Wiggins might be a consistent 3-point shot away from being an All-Star.

Advantage: Rockets

Small Forward: Trevor Ariza vs. Tayshaun Prince

Not much to see here. Consistency vs. Consistency. Ariza is the better player here though. i expect Prince to spend time defending Harden but also giving way to the bevy of youth that Minny sports off the bench.

Advantage: Rockets

Power Forward: Clint Capela vs. Kevin Garnett

Garnett won't play much, but Houston will probably wish he did. Dieng is notorious for gobbling up every loose rebound against Houston and Bjelica isn't a bad player either.

Capela will try to give Houston to length, youth, and athleticism that Houston has usually lacked against Minnesota tonight.

Advantage: Rockets

Center: Dwight Howard vs. Karl-Anthony Towns

As a rookie, Towns is averaging 16/9 with a pair of blocks per game. Minny is letting him develop and it's working. If they can keep Wiggins and Towns around they're going to be good for a while.

By the way, am I crazy for thinking that Dwight Howard deserves an All-Star nod more than James Harden does this season? Dwight has consistently been the backbone of the defense and at times has solely been responsible for keeping the Rockets in games. Offensively he's nowhere near James, but the Rockets wouldn't be here without Dwight. And his recent numbers have been fantastic.

Advantage: Rockets

Bench

Rockets: Ty LawsonJason TerryMarcus Thornton, Corey BrewerTerrence Jones

T-Wolves: Nemanja Bjelica, Shabazz Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng, Zach LaVine, Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic

Advantage: Timberwolves

Prediction:

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