Jan 9, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden (13) against the New Orleans Hornets during the second half of a game at the New Orleans Arena. The Hornets defeated the Rockets 88-79. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Preview: Houston Rockets (21-10) @ Minnesota Timberwolves (16-20)

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The Rockets come to Target Center losers of their last 6 contests, the latest by the hand of the Indiana Pacers, 105-95 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse Friday night. In those 6 losses, the league’s top scoring team failed to top 100 all but once, scoring 109 against the Clippers. Their (relative) dry spell has dropped them to 2nd in the league in points per game average, at 105.

Rockets probable starting lineup:

PG Jeremy Lin

SG James Harden

SF Chandler Parsons

PF Patrick Patterson

C Omer Asik

After scoring 22 points against Indiana’s Roy Hibbert Friday night on 8-13 shooting, Asik won’t have to tangle with the Wolves’ Nikola Pekovic this evening. Asik is averaging 12 points, 11 rebounds and a block on 61% shooting over the last 5 games.

Harden’s recent play is emblematic of the Rockets’ recent struggles. Harden is shooting 28% from 3 so far this month, after shooting 39% in December and 33% in November. His free throw attempts have dropped from 11 to 8 a game, while his 3s have jumped from 5 to 7; contributing to Harden’s attempting 3 more shots a game while scoring 2 points less. Assists, rebounds and steals have all held steady, but he’s falling in love with his jumper lately

Lin has also struggled over the last 5, shooting 39%, 12 points and 5 assists.

Could’ve-been Wolf, James Anderson signed a multi-year deal with the Rockets, January 2nd, and has played 8 minutes since.

Carlos Delfino leads the Rockets in minutes (25) and points (10) off the bench — as well as leading all Rockets in number of 3s attempted per game (6). He is shooting 35% over the last 5.

Wolves probable starting lineup:

PG Ricky Rubio

SG Luke Ridnour

SF Andrei Kirilenko

PF Derrick Williams

C Greg Stiemsma

The adjustments made to the Wolves starting lineup before Thursday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers were to substitute Rubio for Ridnour at point guard while moving the struggling Alexey Shved to the bench and Ridnour to his shooting guard spot, while Williams replaced a weary Dante Cunningham, who likely will miss this evening’s game due to illness. The results were good for Ridnour (21 points, 9-17 shooting), but mixed for Rubio (2-9, 4 points), Williams (3-9, 10 points), Cunningham (2-9, 7 points) and Shved (2-7, 8 points) — who is unlikely to play after rolling his ankle in Thursday’s game.

All of that struggle was compounded by Pekovic’s bruised thigh that will keep him out for 7-10 days. Training Camp invitee Chris Johnson was signed to help in the short term, with the much-ballyhooed 10-day contract allowed by the league, and will likely step right in to platoon with Stiemsma for the time-being. A trade is expected sometime, hopefully soon, to bring the Wolves more frontcourt depth before another shooter. Mickael Gelabale could help — and will get more than a fleeting chance to prove he is capable.

Now that Ridnour is free of his supposed playmaking duties, he and Gelabale will be given the green light and could be prime Rubio targets. Without Pek down low, the backcuts will have to be sharper and the jumpers will have to begin to fall or the Wolves situation could get uglier.

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