Rockets-Timberwolves Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 22, 2012
The Houston Rockets are closing in on their longest win streak in four seasons, and a matchup with an injury-plagued opponent that they've dominated in the past would seem to give them a good opportunity to accomplish that feat. The Minnesota Timberwolves, though, have shown some improvement with point guard Ricky Rubio in the starting lineup and will try to claim their fifth victory in seven games Monday night at home. Houston (9-7) hasn't won seven in a row since a team-record, 22-game run Jan. 29-March 16, 2008 - the second-longest in NBA history - but another strong performance in the fourth quarter might extend its six-game surge. Houston scored a franchise-worst seven points in that period during a 90-88 overtime win against visiting New Orleans on Thursday, but outscored San Antonio 26-18 over the final 9:01 of a 105-102 victory Saturday. The Rockets made 10 of 17 shots in that fourth quarter to finish at a season-best 55.7 percent shooting. Kevin Martin had 25 points, including two free throws with nine seconds left, after scoring a season-high 32 on Thursday. "We knew that playing at home we had to put our energy on the floor and just play hard," guard Goran Dragic said. "This was a big victory for us." Houston will try to bring that same energy to Minnesota (7-9), which was denied its first four-game win streak in nearly two years with Saturday's 108-98 loss at Utah. A dramatic road win over the Los Angeles Clippers the previous night seemed to catch up to the Timberwolves. Kevin Love, who hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat the Clippers, scored 15 points on 5-of-21 shooting in the loss and had eight rebounds, failing to get a double-double for the first time this season. Rubio had one with 17 points and 11 assists, but Minnesota dropped to 4-2 in his six starts. "It was a tough shooting night," Love said. "Most of my shots are right there, in and out. There will be a point in the season where I'm going to go on a hell of a run. I know I am." As Love tries to start that run, Minnesota will attempt to bounce back against a team it's beaten once in the past 15 meetings. The Timberwolves, though, earned that lone win last season, 112-108 in Houston on Feb. 8, and the Rockets arrive in Minneapolis at 2-6 away from home in 2011-12. Their only road win during their current streak was against league-worst Washington, but they've won seven in a row at the Target Center. Minnesota is seeking to win three straight at home for the first time since Jan. 29-Feb. 6, 2010. With help from Love and Rubio, the Timberwolves are on pace for their best record in seven seasons despite a number of absences. Starting forward Michael Beasley has missed nine straight games with a sprained right foot and reserve guard J.J. Barea (sprained ankle) has sat out five of the past six. Minnesota, which totaled 32 wins over its previous two campaigns, also hasn't had former Rocket Brad Miller, Martell Webster and rookie Malcolm Lee on the court this season.
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