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Rockets’ early-season road show resumes vs. Wolves

Sportsnaut
Nov 2, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Rockets guard Kevin Porter Jr. (3) shoots the ball during the third quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Rockets head back on the road again when they face the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday.

Houston is opening the season with 10 of its first 13 games on the road, which is hardly an ideal situation for the league’s second-youngest team.

Saturday’s matchup features a pair of teams eager to get back in the win column. The Rockets are riding a five-game losing streak, while Minnesota dropped its third straight with a 115-102 defeat against the visiting Milwaukee Bucks on Friday.

Guard Kevin Porter Jr. is averaging 20.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists to lead Houston, which has won just once in its first nine games.

Despite the rough start, Porter remains optimistic.

“Losses are frustrating,” Porter said. “It’s a part of competition. There’s one winner and one loser. Every game, we’re in the game so we can’t allow these losses to switch our playing style and switch our concepts and switch the way we play because that’s not what’s wrong.”

Houston has lost five of its past six games against Minnesota, including all three meetings last season.

The Wolves fell to 4-5 with the loss to Milwaukee, which never trailed after the opening two minutes.

“We had a lot of silly plays that kind of happen when you’re in an overall funk,” Minnesota coach Chris Finch said. “I’d like to see us compete a little bit harder at times when things are not going our way offensively. We’re allowing that to affect our defense too much right now.”

Minnesota shot 11 of 41 (26.8 percent) from 3-point range on Friday and received another inconsistent effort from its starting lineup.

Forward Jaden McDaniels (nine points) committed a season-high four turnovers in 18 minutes, while center Rudy Gobert was held scoreless in the first half and finished with seven points.

Timberwolves point guard D’Angelo Russell is averaging 8.8 points on 25.5 percent shooting over his last four games. Russell scored nine points on 3-of-15 shooting against the Bucks.

“He started the game really bright and I thought he had a lot of good looks,” Finch said. “He’s just got to stay confident.”

Minnesota will look to snap its losing skid against Houston, which played well in back-to-back losses to the Los Angeles Clippers earlier this week.

After falling 95-93 on Monday in Los Angeles, the Rockets dropped the rematch 109-101 on Wednesday in Houston despite the efforts of center Alperen Sengun (26 points, 13 rebounds).

“We have to execute plays towards the end of the game,” said Houston’s Jalen Green, who scored 22 points. “Sometimes we cannot get to the ball or we are not setting screens. Those are important down the stretch of the game, especially when we are that close.”

Houston will be without rookie forward Jabari Smith Jr. on Saturday due to an illness. Smith is averaging 10.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.2 blocks.

Rockets forward Jae’Sean Tate, who has missed the past two games due to right ankle soreness, will be sidelined again on Saturday.

Green, a second-year guard who is averaging 19.3 points, believes the Rockets are gaining valuable experience.

“We’re holding our own,” Green said. “We’re battling. We’ve just got to put it all together. We just have to play as a team, stick together. We have a lot of rookies, second-year players. We’re still young. It’s all experience.”

–Field Level Media