Game 1 of the Houston Rockets vs Minnesota Timberwolves series was a little closer than many expected. It took the Rockets the entire 48 minutes to shake the plucky Timberwolves, who had the chance to send the game to overtime on the final possession of the game. Alas, Jimmy Butler’s shot went awry, Houston won 104-101, and took a 1-0 lead in the series.
Heading into Game 2, the Timberwolves will feel confident that they can match it with the home side. Butler scored just 13 points and will no doubt get better as he continues to work his way back from injury, while Towns had just eight points. There is every reason to assume these guys will improve on this output, and if they do they will give their side a chance.
For the Rockets, the James Harden Show continued as the Beard racked up 44 points on 15-for-26 shooting, including 7-for-12 from downtown, and dished out 8 assists. Clint Capela was also dangerous, capitalizing on the Timberwolves’ and Towns’ general lack of defensive awareness to score 24 points.
Three keys to the game
Houston’s shooting – One of the major reasons the Rockets only got over the line by three points despite a superb performance from Harden was that the rest of their team couldn’t hit a long-range shot to save themselves.
Excluding this year’s probable MVP winner, Houston went a woeful 3-for-25 from long range or 12%. The likes of Chris Paul, Trevor Ariza, and Eric Gordon will need to improve that number in Game 2.
Scoring off turnovers – The Timberwolves turned it over 13 times on Sunday, and these turnovers resulted in 18 points for the Rockets. Houston themselves turned it over a similar number of times - 11 to be precise - but conceded a solitary point from these turnovers. Clearly, this is a major differential, and Minnesota will need to capitalize on the Rockets’ errors going forward.
Defending the paint – Paul and Harden love to chuck up lobs for Capela, and the Timberwolves seemed perplexed as to how to deal with this on Sunday. The big man went 10-for-15 from the floor, and all of the 20 points that resulted were inside the paint. Harden also got inside with relative ease, scoring 14 paint points during the game.
Matchup to watch
Clint Capela vs Karl-Anthony Towns – Harden is probably worthy of a mention here, but the matchup at the center was pretty one-sided in Game 1, and not in the direction that many would have expected.
Towns has a much more well-rounded game than his opponent but could only muster up 8 points from 9 shots compared to Capela’s 24 on Sunday.
Towns has work to do at both ends of the floor. His defense was poor, and at the offensive end, he couldn’t get involved. If a similar situation unfolds in Game 2 it’s hard to see the Timberwolves getting up, so he will need to figure out a way to nullify the influence of Capela while also scoring baskets.
Houston Rockets probable starters
PG – Chris Paul
SG – James Harden
SF – Trevor Ariza
PF – PJ Tucker
C – Clint Capela
Minnesota Timberwolves probable starters
PG – Jeff Teague
SG – Andrew Wiggins
SF – Jimmy Butler
PF – Taj Gibson
C – Karl-Anthony Towns
Houston Rockets vs Minnesota Timberwolves at Toyota Center
Date and time: ET - 18 April 2018 09:30 PM; IST - 19 April 2018 7:00 AM