Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Houston Rockets: A brutal stretch begins


The Minnesota Timberwolves begin a brutal five-game, eight-day stretch as they welcome the star-studded Houston Rockets to town tonight.

The Wolves enter this group of death fresh off of easily their worst loss of the season. Deflating, embarrassing and jaw-dropping are just a few of the ways to describe their 85-77 loss to the now 1-17, still-tanking Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday. Yes, they were missing arguably their three best players but still, playing at home, with a team on the brink of making the wrong kind of history, that was an unacceptable loss.

Anyway, the next quintet of games (vs. HOU, @ SAS, vs. GSW, vs. POR, vs. OKC) feature four contests at the Target Center, which (you’d think) would be a plus. Flip Saunders’ bunch is just percentage points better record-wise at home this season though, and that is only because they’ve played one fewer game as the home squad than they have as the road team (the Mexico City game was a home game.) Look for them to even up their home-road split at 2-7 apiece after this one is all said and done.


Minnesota Timberwolves (4-13)

PG – Mo Williams (7 GS, .391 FG%, .829 FT%, 2.2 REB, 6.7 AST, 0.8 STL, 0.3 BLK, 10.6 PTS this season)   

Nov 28, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA: Minnesota Timberwolves forward Thaddeus Young (33) is defended by Los Angeles Lakers forwards Jordan Hill (27) and Carlos Boozer (5) at the Staples Center. The Timberwolves defeated the Lakers 120-119. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

SG – Corey Brewer (9 GS, .439 FG%, .650 FT%, 3.4 REB, 2.5 AST, 2.0 STL, 0.0 BLK, 10.6 PTS this season)

SF – Andrew Wiggins (17 GS, .394 FG%, .692 FT%, 3.6 REB, 1.1 AST, 1.2 STL, 0.5 BLK, 11.7 PTS this season)

PF – Thaddeus Young (12 GS, .439 FG%, .636 FT%, 4.6 REB, 1.8 AST, 1.4 STL, 0.6 BLK, 13.6 PTS this season)

C – Gorgui Dieng (9 GS, .505 FG%, .800 FT%, 7.8 REB, 1.9 AST, 1.1 STL, 1.2 BLK, 8.4 PTS this season)

Key Reserves

Shabazz Muhammad (SG) – I would not be shocked if Shabazz entered the starting lineup at some point in the next week. Given his recent solid performances, combined with Brewer struggling on offense, it may be wise of Flip to insert the youngster into the starting five. It may not come for tonight’s game though as the Wolves may benefit (if ever so slightly) from Brewer’s aggressive defense on a superstar two guard like James Harden.

Anthony Bennett (PF) – After earning a couple of starts while Thad was away from the team, Bennett is likely again relegated to a bench role as long as Thad and Dieng are healthy. With Terrence Jones and Dwight Howard both battling injuries and unavailable for this one, we’ll see if Bennett can take advantage of  a less than intimidating matchups against the likes of  Donatas Motiejunas and Tarik Black.

Chase Budinger (SF) – Amazingly, with the rash of injuries and absences plaguing the T-Wolves so far this season, Budinger has been healthy (knock on wood) and has played in all but two games. This is not to say that he has performing well though. A perfect signifier of the redhead’s putrid shooting this year (15/57, .263 FG%) was the waning seconds of Wednesday’s loss, as an offensive rebound by the Wolves was sandwiched between two fairly open three-point bricks laid by the forward.

Houston Rockets (14-4)

PG –  Jason Terry (2 GS, .419 FG%, .813 FT%, 1.5 REB, 1.8 AST, 1.1 STL, 0.3 BLK, 8.1 PTS this season)

SG – James Harden (18 GS, .410 FG%, .896 FT%, 6.1 REB, 6.6 AST, 2.0 STL, 1.1 BLK, 25.0 PTS this season)

SF – Trevor Ariza (18 GS, .382 FG%, .857 FT%, 5.9 REB, 2.5 AST, 1.8 STL, 0.2 BLK, 13.7 PTS this season)

PF – Donatas Motiejunas (13 GS, .492 FG%, .639 FT%, 5.9 REB, 1.5 AST, 0.6 STL, 0.4 BLK, 8.6 PTS this season)

C –  Tarik Black (8 GS, .532 FG%, .474 FT%, 5.6 REB, 0.3 AST, 0.3 STL, 0.1 BLK, 4.7 PTS this season)     

Oct 14, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; Houston Rockets forward Kostas Papanikolaou (16) against the New Orleans Pelicans during the second half of a preseason game at the Smoothie King Center. The Pelicans defeated the Rockets 117-98. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Key Reserves

Kostas Papanikolaou (SF) –  Other than having a cool name, Papanikolaou has been performing at an exceptional level for the Rockets, especially considering the depleted frontcourt. The Greek lefty has played in every game this year, averaging 6.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.1 assists, including a 14-point game last time out against the Wolves (in Mexico City) on 4-of-4 shooting from downtown.

Francisco Garcia (SG/SF) – The Rockets bench unit is very thin right now, but Garcia is a nine-year pro who crafted an established career in Sacramento before coming over to Houston in 2012. You can never have too much veteran experience on a team with championship aspirations.

Joey Dorsey (PF/C) – The former Memphis Tiger has been another beneficiary of the injuries to Howard and Jones. The 30-year-old has spent nearly all of his last three seasons in the D-League, so he is sure to be relishing every opportunity he gets to play with Houston.


– The Wolves are going to have to keep chugging along without Ricky Rubio (ankle), Nikola Pekovic (wrist), Kevin Martin (wrist), and Ronny Turiaf (hip.) It’s anybody’s guess as to who will be back in action first, but signs point to it being ‘Pek or Turiaf.

3 things to look out for

1. Motiejunas – The 24-year old has taken off recently in the starting role and has averaged 14.8 points per game in the team’s last six games (5-1.) If he keeps the solid play up, coach Kevin McHale may have a tough choice to make when Jones comes back from injury.

2. When do the boo birds start? – For maybe the first time this season, a very obvious, audible round of boos could be heard echoing through the Target Center Wednesday night. That’s what you get when you lose to this year’s version of the 76ers. Fans shouldn’t expect the Wolves to beat the Rockets tonight, but at least make it competitive if you want to avoid further embarrassment.

3. Over/Under 120 pts allowed? – The Wolves may just be the worst defensive team in basketball right now. The Rockets, even without Howard, are still an offensive machine running on Harden and company. In their last six games against Minnesota, they are 5-1 while averaging 113.2 points per game.


I’m 0-for-3 on game predictions so far this year, but I can’t see myself fudging this one up.

No Rubio, no ‘Pek, no K-Mart; I see James Harden and others dominating the Wolves tonight. Fans can only take solace that Howard won’t be playing but still, I’m going with another T-Wolves loss, this time by 20.