• The Wolves host two home games before the All-Star break. The Lakers come to town on Thursday, but the marquee matchup is tonight with the Houston Rockets making their way through.

    These teams are among the best offensive teams in the NBA. The Timberwolves have the third best offensive rating while the Rockets have the second best, trailing just the Golden State Warriors.

    The last time these teams met about one month ago, the Rockets were in a groove and easily took care of the Wolves 116-98. That one was in Houston though and the Wolves’ struggles on the road have been well documented.

    In Minneapolis, the Wolves have been a much more dangerous team. Riding a 13-game home win-streak, the team has found their defensive edge and even managed to kick their offense into a higher gear.

    The Rockets are a dangerous team anywhere, though, because they consistently defend well, as opposed to just in spurts like the Wolves. Ranking in the top-10 in defense has pushed the Rockets into legitimate title contenders with the Warriors.

    Since these teams last met on January 18, they rank first and second in offensive rating. The Rockets are 12-1 in that span however, and the Wolves are 6-7. The difference is on the defensive end. The Rockets have the seventh best while the Wolves have had the second worst.

    These struggles aren’t going to be fixed over night making a high scoring affair inevitable, at least on one end. Can the Wolves overcome a strong defense and live up to their offensive potential? Facing off with the one team that has had a better offense of late certainly makes the task seem all the more dire.

    A win tonight, though, can at least give the top of the Western Conference something to consider. So far the Wolves are 26-9 versus the west, which is the best mark in the NBA, but they are 1-4 versus the three teams ahead of them and 0-3 versus the top two.

    Key Matchup:

    – Karl-Anthony Towns vs. Clint Capela

    The Wolves were able to take advantage of this matchup in the last game, with Towns putting up 22 points and 16 rebounds, though he only hit 1-of-7 3-pointers. If Towns is able to hit his deep shots it could disrupt the Houston defense.

    Of course on the other side Capela scored 20 points himself and had way too many easy dunks. Whether Towns or Gibson is guarding him, no one can forget about the big fella down low. The Rockets bombard teams from beyond the arc so it’s easy to get lazy defending the interior.

    The Rockets are proficient in the deep ball and at drawing fouls. Rarely do they settle for mid range shots. Capela plays a factor in the latter portion, while Ryan Anderson plays a portion in the former. The big man battle will be key as the Wolves can’t let either guy get comfortable.

    Capela and Anderson are prolific playing to their strengths, but also limited outside of it. It’s impossible to stop the Rockets completely, but chipping away at some of the pieces can make it tougher.

    Meanwhile whoever is guarding Anderson should demand the attention of the offense should the team ever find themselves in a rut. Capela is a tremendous defender, while Anderson is far from it.

    Lineups:

    Jeff Teague – PG

    Jimmy Butler – SG

    Andrew Wiggins – SF

    Taj Gibson – PF

    Karl-Anthony Towns – C

    vs.

    Chris Paul – PG

    James Harden – SG

    P.J. Tucker – SF

    Luc Mbah a Moute – PF

    Clint Capela – C

    Injuries:

    Trevor Ariza (hamstring) – OUT

    Where to Watch:

    8:00 ET/ 7:00 CT on Fox Sports North

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