MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES (22-40)
at HOUSTON ROCKETS (35-30)
Tip-off: Friday, 8:05 p.m. ET
Line: Houston -14.5, Total: 209.5
On Friday night, the Rockets continue their long homestand against an injury-depleted Timberwolves team looking for its first road win in over a month.
Houston is coming off a 111-81 blowout victory over the Suns on Wednesday, marking its second straight home win of 30+ points (136-103 win over Dallas on March 3. Minnesota lost its sixth straight road game (1-5 ATS) on Wednesday, falling 107-91 at Indiana. The Wolves have been outscored by an average of 15.5 PPG during the road skid, failing to reach 95 points in any of the past five defeats. Their entire starting frontcourt, PF Kevin Love (hand), SF Andrei Kirilenko (calf) and C Nikola Pekovic (abdominal), remain out indefinitely and the Timberwolves donít have too many other options off of their bench. The Rockets, on the other hand, are healthy and currently in seventh place in the Western Conference standings. Although Houston has dominated the Wolves with a 15-5 SU (13-6-1 ATS) record since 2008, Minnesota has won four of the past five meetings (SU and ATS), including a 92-79 pasting on Jan. 19, and a 111-98 win in its most recent trip to Toyota Center on Feb. 17, 2012.
Can the Rockets win and cover the mammoth spread on Friday night? For the answer, connect to NBA Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. All four experts remain red-hot in NBA Best Bets. StatFox Gary is 68% ATS (13-6) in March and 70% ATS (21-9) since Feb. 20, StatFox Brian is 64% ATS (14-8) since Feb. 28, StatFox Dave is 59% ATS (10-7) since March 2, and StatFox Scott is 57% ATS (36-27) since Feb. 3. The experts are a collective 56% ATS (136-107) since February began, and Scott is now 55% ATS (106-88-1) for the season, Gary is 54% ATS (84-73-4) and Brian is 52% ATS (103-97-3). For NBA Totals, Gary is a perfect 8-0 since March 7, Brian is 3-1 in his past four days, and Scott is 62% (13-8-1) since Feb. 22 to raise his season record to 56.3% (89-69-1) in Totals.
The Timberwolves are playing with out most of their best players at this point in the season and unfortunately they have not been competitive in recent games, especially on the road where they have dropped 18 of their past 20 contests. One player who has performed really well for Minnesota is PG Ricky Rubio (9.5 PPG, 7.4 APG), which is very promising for Timberwolves fans after he tore his ACL last season. Over the past eight games, Rubio is averaging 14.3 PPG, 9.3 APG, 7.0 RPG and 2.6 SPG. Rubio had a triple-double in a stunning 24-point win over San Antonio on Tuesday, and followed that up with 21 points, 10 assists six rebounds and three steals the very next night at Indiana. SF Derrick Williams (11.3 PPG, 5.6 RPG) has also looked promising in the significant minutes he has played since the starting frontcourt went down. Williams is averaging 17.7 PPG and 8.3 RPG over the past 10 games. PG Luke Ridnour (12.3 PPG, 3.9 APG) started off March cold (11.2 PPG on 36% FG and 13% threes), but has found his rhythm in the past two games with 15.5 PPG on 58% FG (3-of-6 threes). PG J.J. Barea (11.3 PPG, 4.1 APG) snapped a four-game streak of 12+ points on Wednesday when he scored just five points on 2-of-9 shooting, but he has 14.5 PPG in two meetings with Houston this season.
Everybody contributed in the Rockets 30-point victory over the Suns on Wednesday. The leading scorer was their highly-skilled PF Donatas Motiejunas (5.3 PPG), who scored a career-high 19 points (7-of-12 FG, 2-of-4 threes) and finished with a game-high +35 rating. Without anybody to cover him on the Timberwolves roster, he could be due for a repeat performance. SG James Harden (26.2 PPG, 5.9 APG, 4.7 RPG) had a +34 rating against Phoenix and scored 18 points, but took only seven shots while needing to play just 32 minutes in the blowout. Harden has averaged 24.0 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 4.0 APG and 2.0 SPG in two meetings with Minnesota this season. Houston wins with great depth, boasting four other double-digit scorers in SF Chandler Parsons (15.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 3.6 APG), PG Jeremy Lin (12.8 PPG, 6.1 APG), SG Carlos Delfino (10.8 PPG, 3.2 RPG) and C Omer Asik (10.3 PPG, 11.8 RPG). But none of these four players has had a particularly strong season series with Minnesota this season as Parsons averages 9.5 PPG on 32% FG, Lin has just 10.0 PPG (29% FG), 10 turnovers and three assists, Delfino has 13.0 PPG on 36% FG and Asik has just 5.5 PPG to go along with his typical 11.0 RPG. Rookie PF Thomas Robinson (4.8 PPG) has loved playing in Toyota Center this month, averaging 11.0 PPG and 7.5 RPG in just 19.0 MPG in two games. This includes his 12 points and seven boards in just 20 minutes in Wednesday's rout.