National Basketball Association
Preview
Minnesota at Houston
When: 8:00 PM ET, Friday, March 27, 2015
Where: Toyota Center, Houston, Texas

With a key cog back in the lineup, the surging Houston Rockets can clinch a playoff spot Friday and continue their push for the No. 2 spot in the West when the Minnesota Timberwolves pull into town. The Rockets received great news on Wednesday when Dwight Howard returned after 26 games (knee) and had four points and seven rebounds in 16 minutes in a 95-93 win over New Orleans. The win was the fifth in six games for Houston, which moved within 1 1/2 games of Memphis.

"I felt pretty good,” Howard told reporters. "I'm just happy to be back out there playing. The main thing for me is just really helping the team on the defensive end. The other stuff will come.” MVP candidate James Harden had 25 points and 10 assists in the win. Minnesota played its third overtime game in four outings Wednesday, losing 101-99 to the Los Angeles Lakers when Jordan Clarkson sank two free throws with 0.3 seconds left.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, FSN North (Minnesota), ROOT (Houston)

ABOUT THE TIMBERWOLVES (16-55): Andrew Wiggins scored 27 points against the Lakers and topped 48 minutes played for the second straight game as Minnesota lost for the 12th time in 15 games. The Timberwolves had won their other two overtime games. "The good thing about us is we're young, so we don't get tired easily,” Wiggins told reporters. The Timberwolves were again without Nikola Pekovic (ankle), Kevin Garnett (knee), Kevin Martin (hamstring) and Ricky Rubio (ankle), but Martin could be ready for the Rockets and coach Flip Saunders stated he expects Garnett and Rubio to return this season.

ABOUT THE ROCKETS (48-23): Houston rallied from 17 points down early in the second quarter against the Pelicans, its biggest comeback of the season. "We came back from a big deficit and the one thing I kept telling the fellas was, we've got to stop playing around with the game," Howard said. "We're on a big mission to win a championship, and we've got to wake up and play.” Patrick Beverly (wrist) will miss seven to 10 days, leaving point guard duties to Jason Terry and Pablo Prigioni.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. The Rockets have won all three games versus the Timberwolves this season with Harden averaging 30.7 points and 8.7 assists and Wiggins averaging 18.7 points, including 30 on Feb. 23.

2. Rockets F Trevor Ariza had 22 points, nine rebounds and five assists against New Orleans while battling the flu.

3. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Rockets are outscoring opponents by 6.9 points per 100 possessions with Dwight Howard on the court this season and 1.9 points without him.

PREDICTION: Rockets 112, Timberwolves 91
Stats and Records
Team Comparison
  W/L Strk Home Away Day Night Div Conf
Minnesota 16-55 L1 9-27 7-28 0-3 16-52 4-9 7-36
Houston 48-23 W2 26-10 21-13 4-0 44-23 6-6 27-17
Last Meeting
Minnesota Houston
Date Away Home Pts Reb FG% Pts Reb FG%
2/23/15 MIN 102 HOU 113 102 58 33.3 113 56 41.5
Player Stats
Previous Matchup
Points Player Total FG% FTM
Minnesota A. Wiggins 30 50.0 5
Houston J. Harden 31 35.0 12
Rebounds Player Total Off Def
Minnesota G. Dieng 14 5 9
Houston T. Jones 15 9 6
Assists Player  
Minnesota R. Rubio 7
Houston J. Harden 10
Season
Points Player Total FG% FTM
Minnesota A. Wiggins 1180 43.6 272
Houston J. Harden 2006 43.9 645
Rebounds Player Total Off Def
Minnesota G. Dieng 640 235 405
Houston D. Motiejunas 455 148 307
Assists Player  
Minnesota R. Rubio 227
Houston J. Harden 510
Quickchart Matchup
Minnesota Off vs  Houston Defense
97.9 Points For
100.1 Points Against
43.7 FG%
44.2 FG%
41.6 Reb
43.8 Reb
Houston Off vs  Minnesota Defense
103.2 Points For
105.7 Points Against
44.0 FG%
48.4 FG%
43.8 Reb
43.4 Reb