The gist: The Timberwolves gave the Lakers a scare before dropping a 106-101 decision. This will be the Rockets’ last home game before embarking on seven road shows in their next eight games that will extend until Valentine’s Day.
Key matchup: The whole Rockets frontline vs Kevin Love
Love’s svelte frame makes him a tireless workhorse on the court, putting up 25-13 averages, definitely worth an MVP conversation. He will crash the boards with ferocity and frustrate whoever is boxing him out. Jordan Hill will need to produce twice the effort he delivered against the Knicks, and even that still might not be enough.
X-factor: Chase Budinger and Chandler Parsons
Specifically AND, not an OR. With Kevin Martin’s status still uncertain, these two players both need big games to stave off a deep T’Wolves backcourt and also to draw attention away from Kyle Lowry, who left his jump shot somewhere in the Target Center when these two teams met last week.
Code Red: Goran Dragic and Patrick Patterson both lit up the T’Wolves the last time they met, combining for 27 points off the bench. Rick Adelman will have his drawing board ready for these two tonight.
The Rockets have been stingy in second halves, only allowing the Wizards 35 points and the Knicks to put up 38. In an ironic twist, they allowed the offensively inept Bucks to go off for 63 markers, including a 20-0 run.
Houston is getting the ball in their hands and forcing it out of their opponents. Their recent 3-1 stretch has them at a +7 in total rebounds and a -3.5 in turning the ball over.
Even Brandon Jennings would cringe at Kyle Lowry’s shooting the past four games. Lowry is a dismal 8 out of 42 (19%).
Stat of the week: Chase Budinger strung together 40 points over a span of 48 minutes the past two games.
A reader, TwistedNematic, writes:
Hakeem Olajuwon is why I’m a Rockets fan today. He did everything; hung around with the team through early playoff exits and losing seasons due to a weak supporting cast, led us to the promised land (twice) and set way too many statistical records to mention here. After everything Houston and Hakeem had been through, watching him wither away in a Toronto Raptors jersey was pure torture. I was younger at the time and I did not understand the move at all, as I’ve grown older and learned more about draft picks and contracts, my position on that trade remains unchanged. Do you know what we got for Hakeem? A draft pick that led to Bostjan Nachbar, a total bust who’s wasting away in some Russian D-league right now. Hakeem had requested the trade due to the front office being cheap. Next time the greatest player who has ever worn a Rockets jersey asks for a max offer, you give it to him. At this point, its not about winning or rebuilding or drafting or next season. This is one of the few times that sports transcends winning and statistics. This is about a city’s admiration for a man. Out of all the Rockets games I’ve yelled, cheered and bled through; loss to the Jazz in the playoffs, the early exits with Tmac, including that Game 7 blowout in Dallas, the end of the 22 game losing streak (guess who we lost too?), the news that Yao was done while we were battling the Lakers in round 2 and the lakers opening night come back which ruined the whole season last year, the worst moment of being a Rockets fan was when I turned on the TV and saw this:
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On Twitter, some nights ago, I asked you all, between Kyle Lowry and John Wall, whom you would prefer to have on this team, either for a single season or going long-term. Surprisingly, the majority preferred Lowry. A reader, Joe, had some thoughts of his own in the forum:
But, like Favian pointed out, he’s a “late-bloomer.” How many of the Association’s current “superstars” emerged on to the scene in their mid-20′s? Not many. Fans are enamored with young, budding talent. Exactly why the media’s casting a bright light on John Wall, just 21-years-old, and he’s scooping up endorsement deals along the way. If the Rockets were playing for all the marbles tonight, I’d roll with Lowry. But, with time, Wall’s going to be the superior player and to attribute his “hype” to Reebok commercials and consumerism is borderline absurd. Statistically, he’s already nipping at the heels of Lowry, who’s over 5 years his elder. Lowry’s the better shooter, hands down, but he developed that stroke with time. Wall’s already one of the most dynamic open-floor players in the game, and can finish at the rim with the best of ‘em (leads all PGs in And-1s, as well). His 3-pt stroke’s only going to improve, and once it catches up to his attacking abilities, he’ll be an absolute force to be reckoned with. Earlier, I gave credit to K-Low for being the best rebounding PG in the NBA, well Wall checks in at #2 with 5.5 boards/game. He doesn’t play with the grit and determination of a K-Low, but he’s already a comparable talent to Lowry as the youngest starting PG in the NBA.
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