The two worst teams in the NBA square off on Tuesday night and the Houston Rockets are clearly the more distressed squad.
The Rockets host the suddenly improving Minnesota Timberwolves, one day after learning point guard John Wall is likely done for the season due to a right hamstring strain.
It rates as a bad development for NBA-worst Houston (15-46), which has lost four straight games and 36 of its last 40 as it opens a five-game homestand against the Timberwolves (18-44).
With just 11 games left in a lost season, the Rockets are expected to shut down Wall, who also continues to have knee issues.
Houston general manager Rafael Stone said the severity of the hamstring injury was detected in an MRI exam on Monday. Wall was injured during Friday’s 109-104 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, a contest in which he recorded 27 points and 13 assists.
Wall sat out Saturday’s loss to the Denver Nuggets in a predetermined night of rest on the second end of a back-to-back.
If Wall’s season is indeed done, he finishes with averages of 20.6 points and 6.9 assists in 40 games. It was his first season with the Rockets after being acquired in the preseason deal that sent Russell Westbrook to the Washington Wizards.
But it rates as a disappointing ending as the five-time All-Star has played in just 113 games over the past four seasons due to a series of injuries.
“I still think I’m an All-Star in this league,” Wall, 30, said after Friday’s game. “I still think I’m a big-time player in this league.”
Meanwhile, the Rockets hope to have standout forward Christian Wood back in the lineup after he sat out against the Nuggets due to an ankle injury.
Wood recorded 24 points and a career-high 19 rebounds versus the Clippers.
The Rockets and Timberwolves split two meetings late last month. Minnesota star Karl-Anthony Towns was superb with averages of 28 points, 15.5 rebounds and six assists.
The Timberwolves have momentum with four wins in their past six games, including a back-to-back sweep of the NBA-best Utah Jazz.
Minnesota posted a 101-96 road win over the Jazz on Saturday and followed up with a 105-104 home triumph on Monday. D’Angelo Russell scored the decisive basket with 4.2 seconds left on Monday as the Timberwolves completed a three-game season sweep of Utah.
Russell knocked down six first-half 3-pointers and finished with a season-best seven. He contributed 27 points and a season-high 12 assists.
“He obviously has the ability to get hot and create his own offense,” Minnesota coach Chris Finch said afterward of Russell. “He was feeling it. He hit the deep ones and that opened up the floor for others.”
Towns added 21 points and 11 rebounds and pointed to the team’s defense as the key to beating the Jazz in back-to-back games.
Finch agreed as his team held Utah to an average of 100 in the two games after giving up 120 or more in nine of the previous 12 contests.
Also, the defense saved the game as rookie Jaden McDaniels and veteran Ricky Rubio combined to break up the Jazz’s final attempt.
“We are using a lot of energy defensively right now,” Finch said. “… I think our guys are doing a good job of being disruptive and that is where defense starts.”
–Field Level Media