Scattered from Toronto to Indianapolis to Jamaica and points elsewhere during the All-Star break this past week, the Timberwolves are back and together for this stretch run of 21 games to the finish and presumably the playoffs, starting tonight with a formidable test at Houston.
"I love the break, but I hate the break," Wolves veteran forward Taj Gibson said. "Because when you get back, you still have to get your rhythm, you have to get back in the swing of things and sometimes it's tough. This is my firs ttime really taking a break and not doing much other than rest my body. So I'm just trying to get back into the rhythm and swing of things."
Gibson went to Jamaica and trained in a different way, in the ocean.
"I was swimming a lot, so it was a workout in itself," he said. "Doing a lot of swimming in the water every day, having fun."
Jeff Teague went home to Indiana. Andrew Wiggins returned to Toronto, his hometown. Cole Aldrich went back to alma mater Kansas for a long weekend when the university retired his jersey and celebrated the 10th anniversary of Aldrich's 2008 NCAA championship team.
They return together to play a Rockets team that won 10 consecutive games heading into the break. The Rockets also have beaten them by 18 points each time the two teams have played already this season.
The Rockets made 17 three-point shots, including four in succession late in the game, to turn a four-point game into a 126-108 win at Target Center just 10 days ago.
"This is a big challenge," said Wiggins, who turns 23 tonight (the same birthday as Flip Saunders, who would have been 63 today). "We haven't beaten them this year. We've come close every time until the fourth quarter. We just have to stay consistent, stay disciplined, take away the threes. That's what killed us. Easier said than done."
Eric Gordon made seven of the Rockets' 17 threes last time and Ryan Anderson made two of those four consecutive threes, the last one even farther away than the first.
Anderson did so after Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni moved him to center and he exploited the matchup by pulling Karl-Anthony Towns way out onto the floor. After that game, Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau suggested he'd have to adjust to that better.
Asked this morning at shootaround in Houston about such a matchup, Thibodeau said, "Every game is different. Different personnel this game. They could small. They could go big. You have to be ready for both when you play against them. They have great versatility with their lineup."