The tanking Timberwolves head to Houston to take on the slumping Rockets. Which team should you make your NBA pick?
Minnesota Timberwolves (19-44) vs. Houston Rockets (39-24)
Tuesday, March 10th, 8:05 p.m. EST
Opening Line: Houston -12.5 (-110) at Betonline
The Minnesota Timberwolves were thought to be all but lost when Karl Anthony Towns went down with an injury but the team has been performing surprisingly well against NBA odds. Although they do not have many entries into the win column, their performance against the spread has been admirable as the team is often overlooked and has been performing well against the large NBA odds that the books are affording them. This is important to keep in mind when handicapping the Timberwolves game.
The Timberwolves most recent game was a 13-point loss at home to the Pelicans. Newcomer Malik Beasley performed well again and had 21 points and 9 rebounds and D’Angelo Russell, the object of their desires in a trade with the Warriors, scored 19 points. They also received 42 points off the bench from their reserves. If the Timberwolves are to perform better, they’re going to need better performances from D’Angelo Russell who is shooting just 32.9% over his last 5 games.
Russell is still adapting to the new system and is often the focal point of the defensive effort as he is the number 1 scorer on the team. For the Timberwolves to make a jump, Russell going to need to learn how to handle this extra defensive attention.
The Rockets have gone all-in on an experimental style, trading center Clint Capela and running with 5 players, the tallest of whom is 6 ft 7. This allows the Rockets extra quickness on the offensive end and they’ve been very tough to match up with, although they now have weaknesses in rim protection and defensive rebounding, which many teams have been able to exploit. As a result, since the trade the Rockets games have been widely variant in their outcomes. Sometimes the Rockets are able to run away at things on the offensive end and other times they get punished on the glass and defensively are unable to keep up with seemingly inferior teams. It makes the Rockets hard to handicap by numbers and Power Rankings and instead we must look to the individual matchups when handicapping their games.
The Rockets most recent outing was a 20-point loss to the Orlando Magic. It was the Rockets fourth straight loss as teams have discovered how to use size in order to take advantage of the Rockets smaller, quicker lineups. At first NBA teams were struggling to adjust and the Rockets had won 6 in a row before they dropped these last 4 games. This 4 game losing streak is a season high for Houston. The losing streak has been detrimental to their season as they have dropped down to 6th place.
The Timberwolves have been struggling on defense and will probably have problems matching up with James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Teams have been using their center on Russell Westbrook to take advantage of his lack of outside shooting, but with a center who is is a fairly good rim protector but not very agile in Naz Reid the strategy will not work as Westbrook and the Rockets will exploit it for sure. For Minnesota to be successful they will need to matchup Reed on Tucker and not allow the Rockets to exploit Reed’s lack of quickness. On the other end the Timberwolves do like to run a pick-and-roll through D’Angelo Russell and the Rockets play excellent switch pick and roll defense. Teams have had success going at the Rockets inside so rather than Russell controlling and looking for his own shot on the pick-and-roll he will need to be looking for the roll man and trying to attack the Rockets in the paint. The Timberwolves ability to keep the Rockets quickness from getting open shots and willingness to eschew their normal game plan and attack the paint more than usual will be key to their success.
My Pick & Pop
Teams are catching on as to the way that the Rockets weaknesses are to be attacked with this new lineup and even James Harden has said that the way things are going on the court feels weird. The Rockets are not fully working as a team right now and struggling to implement their new strategy and counter the adjustments that opponents are making. While before the Rockets used to be a covering machine, they now have been struggling against the spread and their pace and offensive output has slowed. For this reason I’m going to grab the generous amount of points the NBA odds have afforded me. My NBA pick is the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Free NBA Pick: Minnesota Timberwolves +12.5 (-110) at Bovada