Wolves angle for top seed, while Rockets looking for playoff berth

League: NBA

Posted on: 01 Apr, 2024 at 10:54 PM

Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Timberwolves and Houston Rockets each will seek an important late-season victory when they tip off Tuesday night in Minneapolis.

Minnesota (51-23) is coming off a 109-101 loss at home against the Chicago Bulls on Sunday night. The defeat dropped the Timberwolves to third place in the Western Conference entering Monday, but they still have time to chase the top spot with eight games to play.

Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards said he and his teammates were not putting too much energy into thinking about the loss. Before their last game, Minnesota had won four games in a row and seven of its past eight.

"You're going to lose some games," Edwards said. "It just happened to be this one. I don't think we're in trouble."

Houston (38-36) is in a bit more trouble as it competes for a play-in spot in the Western Conference. The Rockets are two games behind the Golden State Warriors for the final spot in the play-in tournament with eight games remaining.

In their most recent game, the Rockets lost 125-107 at home against the Dallas Mavericks. The defeat snapped an 11-game winning streak for Houston.

Rockets forward Jabari Smith Jr. said the key to bouncing back was obvious.

"Easy," Smith said. "Just put it behind us and look for the next one.

"(Our) season is not over, so just keep playing. We try to win every game, you can't win them all. ...

"It isn't going to get any easier from here. Thinking about that, we've got to go to a tough environment in Minnesota, so we've got to put it behind us and get ready for the next one."

The Rockets remain without big man Alperen Sengun, who has been sidelined since March 10 because of a sprained right ankle. Sengun leads the team in averaging 21.1 points and 9.3 rebounds this season.

After Sengun, Jalen Green is the next-leading scorer for Houston with 19.9 points per game. Fred VanVleet (16.7) and Smith Jr. (13.6) round out the top four scorers.

Edwards leads the Timberwolves with 26.1 points per game. Karl-Anthony Towns is next with 22.1 points per game but is out with a knee injury.

Rudy Gobert and Naz Reid have helped to fill the void left by Towns' injury. Gobert is averaging 13.8 points and 12.9 rebounds, and Reid is averaging 13.1 points and 5.1 rebounds.

Edwards is eager to break out of a shooting slump from beyond the arc. During his past two games, he is 0-for-13 from 3-point range, including an 0-for-8 performance against the Denver Nuggets and an 0-for-5 result against Chicago.

"I thought they were going in," Edwards said. "They hit front rim. That just means I've got no legs. I have to figure that part out."

This is the third and final matchup of the regular season between the Timberwolves and the Rockets.

Minnesota won the first game 122-95 on Jan. 5 in Houston. The Timberwolves followed up with a 111-90 win on their home court Feb. 4.

--Field Level Media