Rockets-Timberwolves Preview

While the Minnesota Timberwolves have struggled of late, getting

back home could be just what they need to regroup.

Kevin Love’s return would surely help, too.

Seeking a sixth consecutive home win for the first time in nine

seasons, the Timberwolves try to slow down the surging Houston

Rockets on Wednesday night.

Minnesota (13-12) enters this game having dropped three of four

– including Sunday’s 94-91 loss at New York. Nikola Pekovic had 21

points and a career-high 17 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who shot

7 of 23 in the fourth quarter and couldn’t hold on to a late

lead

“We battled. We had a great game, it just didn’t go our way

there in the last couple of minutes,” J.J. Barea said. “We just

couldn’t get a break there at the end and I think it hurt us.”

Minnesota has to like its chances of regrouping at the Target

Center, where it’s strung together five straight wins while

averaging 101.4 points – 5.9 more than its season mark. The

Timberwolves haven’t captured six in a row on their own court since

a 14-game run in 2003-04.

Minnesota also has plenty to be excited about with Love expected

back. The All-Star forward, who didn’t make the trip to New York

after getting poked in the eye late in Thursday’s 99-93 home win

over Oklahoma City, is averaging 19.6 points and 13.9 rebounds –

the NBA’s second-highest mark among those who’ve played at least 10

games.

Love has averaged 28.3 points and 14.0 boards in his last six

matchups against Houston (15-12), which had won 15 of 16 in this

series before losing the last three. Love and Pekovic combined for

63 points and 29 rebounds while Ricky Rubio scored 18 to go along

with nine assists in a 111-98 road win Feb. 17.

Another victory, though, may not be as easy to come by if the

Rockets’ recent efforts are any indication. Houston has won six of

seven – including a season-best four straight by an average of 20.8

points. The Rockets, leading the league with 106.0 points per game,

have averaged 118.8 during their run.

Houston’s offensive prowess was on full display Tuesday in a

120-97 rout at Chicago. James Harden, Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik and

Chandler Parsons scored a combined 89 points for the Rockets, who

held a 66-32 edge in the paint and outscored the Bulls 31-8 in

transition. Lin matched a season high with 11 assists while Asik

grabbed 18 boards.

“We are a very young team, but are continuing to learn and

believe in our system,” coach Kevin McHale said.

The Rockets are 0-5 on the road when scoring less than 100

points but 4-2 when they reach that mark. Houston is 2-4 on the

back end of back-to-backs.

In addition to trying to contain Love, the Rockets may need to

be wary of Rubio. The second-year point guard has averaged just 3.3

points off the bench in four games since returning from a torn ACL

but could start to see more minutes going forward. He’s gone 3 for

16 (18.8 percent) from the field.

“We knew that it would be something that would take a while, so

it’s taking a while,” president David Kahn told the team’s official

website. “But we expected that, and we’re sure that it will work

out in the end.”