The Houston Rockets (34-17) are in town to play the staggering (Punch-Drunk?) Wolves (24-27) tonight. Tip is at 7 P.M. Central. Views via FSN and NBATV. Sounds via WCCO 830. James Harden’s beard is traveling with the team and will be in the Rockets’ starting lineup.
We discussed some of the issues heading into this game during our first Punch-Drunk Podcast. (Eds. Note: We’re planning on adding podcasts to our repertoire on a semi-regular basis. More details on that to come.)
A few notes on tonight’s game below the fold.
The Wolves were shorthanded on Saturday night at home against Portland, when they played without their top-three scorers, Kevin Love, Kevin Martin, and Nikola Pekovic, in a 117-110 loss. The Wolves played admirably well in the loss, but failed to hold a third-quarter lead. Portland was clearly the better team. But Ricky Rubio, Chase Budinger, and Shabazz Muhammad, all showed flashes of offensive skill-sets that’ve been little-seen this season.
Despite those encouraging performances, the Wolves will struggle every single game they play without Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic. You just don’t lose 26 and 13 (Love) and 18 and 9 (Pek) and compete like you would otherwise. It’s nice to see Gorgui Dieng playing in games, and to see Dante Cunningham stepping up some at PF, but it’s not that nice. The Wolves have lost three straight, their playoff hopes are quickly disappearing into the ether, and they need wins, like, now, if that’s still the goal.
Pek and Martin are likely out through the All-Star break. Love’s status for tonight’s game is uncertain as of now, but with the All-Star Game coming up – in which Love is all-but-certain to play as a frontcourt starter – the chances seem better than not that Love will be back in the lineup tonight.
It will be interesting to see how the Wolves try to handle James Harden. Kevin Martin likely wouldn’t be defending him even if he were in the lineup – that responsibility will likely fall to Corey Brewer. But Luc Richard Mbah a Moute will also likely get some tick against Harden, especially if Brewer struggles early or gets his self in foul trouble. LRMAM has shown himself to be a solid defender, but hasn’t looked like the elite defender we expected to arrive in Minnesota when the Wolves traded Derrick Williams for him earlier this season.
- Winning streak: The Rockets are playing good ball, having matched their longest winning streak of the season – 5 games.
- D12 is back: Dwight Howard has been playing especially well during the Rockets’ win streak, averaging 26.2 points, or 7.4 more than his season average. D12 is basically playing like his old franchise-center-circa-Orlando-era self. He had 27 points and 13 rebounds in the Rockets’ win over the Bucks on Saturday.
- Goodreads/Linkage: There’s been some good stuff written on the Rockets over the last few weeks. Be sure to check out Ethan Sherwood-Strauss’ piece on the Rockets’ offensive strategy. (Eds. Note: The money quote came from Patrick Beverley: “Only thing we’re shooting in practice are layups and 3s.” Kevin McHale must’ve gotten the memo from Daryl Morey about efficiency.) Also, Henry Abbott of True Hoop had a very interesting piece about James Harden’s ascent to NBA stardom. There’s some beard porn in the article too, if that’s your thing.
Speaking of beard porn (Eds. Note: No, not that kind. Keep it clean, kids.), here’s some James Harden to pregame to.
Enjoy the tilt.