Highlights courtesy of MLG Highlights
1. Down 2-0 in the series and hosting the first playoff game in 14 years to say tonight was important would be a vast understatement. Luckily the Minnesota Timberwolves realized this and came out ready to rock. Jimmy Butler put his stamp on what was most definitely a statement game for Thibs. & Co. with a 28 point, 7 rebound and 5 assist night as en route to their first win of the series. Butler also took the tasks of primarily guarding potential MVP James Harden which is never an easy task. It was the first game of the series where there was some real cohesion with the T’Wolves and it was apparent that Butler’s leadership was the lynchpin in this group coming together.
Consistency has been an issue for this Wolves squad all season. And two of the players that most likely come to mind in regards to this are Jeff Teague and Andrew Wiggins. No one can deny Teague’s toughness and no one can deny Wiggins’ talent it’s just a matter of whether or not they’re going to bring it from night to night. Luckily they brought it on this night. Teague notched 23 points and 8 assists on 9 of 14 from the field. His intensity was a huge boost for the young guys especially. Wiggins was one of said young guys that really got it going to the tune of 20 points with 5 boards and assists. Normally a soft minus on that end Wiggs showed off a little of his defensive prowess as well.
2. Just a gentle reminder, Karl-Anthony Towns is good at basketball. It appears that this reminder was needed for us, the Minnesota Timberwolves and quite honestly Towns himself. After laying dormant and failing to reach double digits in scoring in the two previous games in the series KAT had a koming out party of sorts (see what I did there?). The big KAT notched a double double with 18 and 16 along with a pair of blocks. Utilizing on of his most understated strengths Towns was perfect from the line nailing all seven attempts.
Taj Gibson and Gorgui Dieng were good on defense and Tyus Jones looked impressive in scant duty. But the clear best of the bench for Minny was by far Derrick Rose. The former MVP put up 17 points in 21 minutes on hitting half of his shots. Rose also added a pair of steals. What’s probably more important is that a healthy and confident Derrick Rose is still explosive enough to pose problems for opposing defenses (mind you Houston boasts the 6th rated defense in the league).
The way these guys play doesn’t lend itself to pretty or sound play. It’s confounding at times, infuriating and thoroughly mucked up. Tonight they drug the Rockets into the muck with them. It’s not the most sensible plan, but it may be the only one that works.
3. To be completely honest here this was a case of the home team ratcheting up the intensity while the road team and in this case heavy favorite finding themselves stuck in neutral. James Harden wasn’t bad posting a line of 29-7-7 (just shows you how wild this dude is when this line elicits a ‘not bad’) but there was just a flat feel to his game. Same with Chris Paul who ran up 17 points and 6 assists before fouling out for only the third time in his postseason career in 30 minutes. And this pretty much true for anyone that donned red and white tonight.
The only surprise was that when Minny got going offensively there was no real push back from the Rockets. Shots not falling is one thing but this has been a Houston team that has almost never failed to react to getting punched in the mouth defensively. Maybe they’re reflecting on the long road ahead of them and are foolishly looking past what’s facing them now. I wouldn’t bet on them doing it again.