Rockets at Timberwolves
The Houston Rockets are winners of eight in a row and have a chance to go into the All-Star break in first place in the Western Conference with a couple more wins and a little help. The Minnesota Timberwolves, who host the Rockets on Tuesday, are looking for their own momentum heading into the break and have not lost on their home floor since Dec. 16.
The Timberwolves, who host the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday in their final game before the break, pushed their home winning streak to 13 in a row on Sunday but needed to work hard down the stretch to pull off a 111-106 triumph over the West-worst Sacramento Kings. "It's a long season, it really is," reserve guard Jamal Crawford told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "There will be highs and lows and ebbs and flows, but if we can find ways to win games like even when we're not technically at our best, then it's a good thing for us." Houston won its last four on the road and is making a brief stop in Minnesota after grinding out a 104-97 home win over the Dallas Mavericks. "We wouldn't be anywhere without our defense," Rockets All-Star guard James Harden told reporters. "Whenever we can rely on getting stops and creating opportunities from our defense good things happen offensively for everybody."
TV: 8 p.m. ET, AT&T SportsNet Southwest (Houston), FS North (Minnesota)
ABOUT THE ROCKETS (42-13): Houston is learning to win even when things aren't going its way and pulled out the victory on Sunday despite struggling to 13-of-45 from 3-point range. "We don't really get frustrated. We don't get too high, too low," Harden told reporters after grinding out the win over the Mavericks. "We just try to stay at an even keel. We know that there's gonna be runs in the game. We know that shots are gonna be missed and coverages are gonna be blown, but if we can move past it and move to the next play -- the faster we can do that -- the better off we'll be." Harden went 4-of-13 from beyond the arc in the win but finished with a team-high 27 points.
ABOUT THE TIMBERWOLVES (35-24): All-Star guard Jimmy Butler scored 11 of his 18 points in the decisive fourth quarter on Sunday. "Jimmy Butler woke up," Crawford told the Star Tribune of what made the difference down the stretch. "He was asleep. Obviously, we know how good he is. But it just separates everything. He started making all the plays and he read the game wonderfully. Score, get fouled, get assists. We tried chipping in when we could." Butler is averaging 29.8 points on 53.3 percent shooting over the last five games.
1. Rockets PG Chris Paul scored 22 or more points in four of the last five games.
2. Timberwolves C Karl-Anthony Towns collected 29 points and eight rebounds on Sunday, just the 10th time this season that he failed to record a double-double.
3. Houston earned a 116-98 win at home over Minnesota on Jan. 18 despite Harden being held to 10 points.