Timberwolves-Rockets Preview

The Associated Press

The Houston Rockets didn't have too many problems in the opener to their longest homestand of the season. The injury-plagued and last-place Minnesota Timberwolves are set to visit next, though they've dominated the recent series between the clubs.

The Rockets try to avoid a fifth loss in six matchups and fourth in a row at home to the Timberwolves on Friday night.

Houston (35-30) followed up a 1-2 road trip with a 111-81 rout of Phoenix on Wednesday. Rookie forward Donatas Motiejunas scored a career-high 19 points to lead six Rockets in double figures and the team's 10 3-pointers gave them double digits in all six games this month.

"We were moving the ball, sharing the ball," point guard Jeremy Lin said. "You could look across (the statistics) and see we had great distribution among the scoring. That's usually a great sign of transition buckets, as well as sharing the ball offensively."

The win helped the Rockets, seventh in the Western Conference, move two games ahead of ninth-place Utah. Houston will try to pad that advantage during a seven-game stretch at home, where it's won seven of eight.

The Rockets' next opponent has dropped 14 of 15 on the road and is 6-25 there overall. Minnesota, however, has looked anything like a bad team in its recent matchups with Houston.

The Timberwolves recorded a 92-79 home victory over the Rockets on Jan. 19 despite the absence of seven players due to injury and illness. Minnesota's leader with 21 points in that game, Andrei Kirilenko, is dealing with a strained calf it's uncertain whether he'll play Friday.

The status of center Nikola Pekovic is also unclear while star forward Kevin Love and former Rockets swingman Chase Budinger are also expected to continue lengthy absences.

Pekovic had 30 points and 12 rebounds in the teams' last meeting in Houston, a 111-98 Wolves victory Feb. 17, 2012. Minnesota has averaged 114.3 points in its three consecutive victories at Houston.

After a stunning 107-83 blowout of Western Conference-leading San Antonio on Tuesday, Minnesota couldn't follow with another victory the next day, falling 107-91 at Indiana. Ricky Rubio scored 21 points for the second straight game, matching a season high, and had 10 assists.

"We played hard. We just didn't have enough. We ran out of gas in the second half, but they competed," coach Rick Adelman said.

Houston's James Harden made two baskets in the final 40 seconds and had 17 of his team-best 30 points in the fourth quarter of an 87-84 road victory over Minnesota on Dec. 26.

Harden made 11 of 22 shots in that game, but missed 13 of 18 and scored 18 points in the January matchup.

What to Read Next