Posted on April 26, 2018, by Travis Pulver
Houston Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni was probably hoping to see his team find its groove again in the first round of the playoffs. That way, when they went up against better competition in the second round, they’d be ready for it. But that didn’t happen—at least not in Game Five Wednesday night in Houston.
Despite their struggles, the Rockets closed out the series against the Minnesota Timberwolves with a 122-104 win.
Once again, it wasn’t a great start for the Rockets, but the game remained close throughout the first quarter anyway. Heading into the second, they were down by just a single point, 26-25.
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The second quarter remained close at first, but the T-Wolves started to edge ahead. When Derrick Rose hit a 23-foot three-pointer with 6:25 to play in the half, Minnesota led by ten, 47-37. But by the time the end of the half rolled around, Houston managed to cut the deficit to four points, 59-55.
While it is never good to be down, Houston had to be glad they weren’t down by more than four. Karl-Anthony Towns had a great half with 13 points and 11 rebounds. As a team, the T-Wolves had hit 55 percent of their shots in the first half
At the same time, Chris Paul and James Harden couldn’t buy a bucket. The duo was 1-10 midway through the second and finished the first half just 3-16. All considering, a four-point deficit wasn’t too bad. It could certainly be worse.
It got worse for Minnesota in the second half.
Houston started the third quarter with a 10-2 run to take the lead, 65-61, less than three minutes into the half. Minnesota regained the lead briefly a couple of minutes later. But a 26-foot three-pointer by Harden put the Rockets back on top, 68-66.
After a rough first half, Harden chipped in 15 of Houston’s 30 points in the quarter as Houston took an 11-point lead into the fourth quarter. The Rockets offense remained hot effectively keeping a comeback from becoming a possibility for Minnesota.
Harden finished the night with 24 points and 12 assists. But the hero of the night wasn’t him or Chris Paul (12 points and nine assists). It was Clint Capela. Houston’s center was an incredible defensive presence, went 12-14 from the floor, and pulled down 15 rebounds.
All five starters ended up scoring in double figures for Houston, and Eric Gordon chipped in 19 points off the bench.
D’Antoni talked about Capela’s performance after the game (ESPN): “In that role that he has, there’s nobody better in the league.”
Houston will have to wait to see who they play next. The Utah Jazz had a shot to close out their series with the Oklahoma City Thunder Wednesday night. For a while, it looked like they were going to do just that. But then a fierce second-half comeback led by Russell Westbrook saw the Thunder take the lead and the win, 107-99.
The Jazz will have a chance to close out the series Friday night on their home court. Should they lose, Game Seven will be Sunday in Oklahoma City.