Rockets-Timberwolves Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 26, 2012
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."
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