Posted on April 24, 2018, by Travis Pulver
Houston Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni has been talking about his team being in a rut in recent weeks. While they were still able to win Games One and Two against the Minnesota Timberwolves despite the rut, they couldn’t get the job done in Game Three.
But if they wanted to win Game Four and have a chance to close out the series in Houston, they had to break out of it.
At first, it didn’t look like they were going to Monday night. It almost seemed like no one wanted to hit a shot in the first half. James Harden went 0-7 in the first quarter. He didn’t hit his first shot until the 5:57 mark in the second, a 10-footer that cut the deficit to 39-37.
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On the next possession, he hit a step-back three-pointer to put the Rockets ahead, 40-39.
Minnesota led the game by as much as seven-points during the first half. They didn’t shoot the ball poorly (47.7 percent in the first half). But the majority of their shots just went for two. You will probably not beat the Rockets doing that.
But even though the Rockets were up 50-49 at the half, they couldn’t feel good about how they played. If they were going to win, something needed to change in the second half—and something did.
James Harden started making shots.
Houston looked like a different team in the second half, and it all started with Harden. He scored 17 of the team’s first 20 points in the third and ended up hitting seven of ten shots for 22 points. Chris Paul chipped in another 15 as the Rockets put up 50 points on the hapless T-Wolves.
Yes, they matched their first half total in the third quarter alone.
“It was a good time to do it. We’ve been talking about it for two years, putting the 50-piece up,” D’Antoni said after the game (ESPN). “And that starts with the intensity and the right spirit and everything.”
Minnesota managed to put up 20 points of their own to make the score heading into the fourth quarter, 100-69.
“We came out lackadaisical on both ends of the floor,” Minnesota’ Jimmy Butler said after the game (ESPN). “We didn’t take anything away from them. They got whatever shot that they wanted.”
With the game well in hand, Houston coasted through the final quarter and was outscored 31-19 making the final 119-100, Rockets.
Despite his slow start, Harden led the way for the Rockets with 36 points followed by Chris Paul with 25 points. Clint Capella chipped in a double-double with 14 points and 17 rebounds.
Karl-Anthony Towns led the way for Minnesota with 22 points and 15 rebounds followed by Jimmy Butler’s 19 points. But the highlight for the T-Wolves was the performance of Derrick Rose. The former MVP chipped in 17 points, six rebounds, and four assists off the bench.
Houston will have a chance to close the T-Wolves out when the series moves back to Houston for Game Five Wednesday night.