The Timberwolves have been struggling in the playoffs. Miserably.
However, they look to regroup and try to even up the series at home while the Rockets hope to sweep them on the road.
Even though they were not expected to do that well as an 8th seed and playing against the best team in the NBA, the Timberwolves had many chances in both Games 1 and 2 to possibly win one, if not both of those games against Houston.
In Game 1, Minnesota had control of the lead for parts of the game but could never build on it. They mostly had to play catch up after every Rockets run, who created a lead as large as 11 points. The Wolves even had a chance to tie the game in the final seconds of the game, but could not do so as they lost 104-101. With only 16 points in total, the Rockets’ bench failed to provide scoring, but were carried by Harden’s 44 points and seven threes, and 24 from Capela.
In Game 2, the Rockets dismantled the Timberwolves 102-82, outscoring them 37-17 in the second quarter. After an appalling performance from Chris Paul in Game 1, he provided 27 points with Gerald Green’s 21 points off the bench.
But what surprised everyone was how the Rockets bulldozed them when James Harden had one of the worst performances of his life. While shooting 2-18 from the field and only connecting on 1-of-10 three point attempts, he scored 12 points (he made 7 free throws) with only a plus/minus ratio of +1. And they won by 20 points.
This shows why the Rockets are the best team in the league. Even if Harden or Paul have a bad game, they have Eric Gordon and Gerald Green averaging outstanding numbers off the bench and Trevor Ariza and PJ Tucker serving as spot-up 3-point shooters. They are loaded with players that can shoot long-distance and spread the floor.
As I said above, the Timberwolves, specifically Karl-Anthony Towns and Jimmy Butler, have struggled in these past two games. Towns had a TOTAL of 13 points in both games (13!!). He put up 9 attempts in both games and only made 3 in Game 1 and 2 in Game 2. Yikes.
On the other hand, Jimmy Butler had 24 total points in these playoffs. It is not bad as KAT, but still, it is really, really bad. He attempted 11 field goals in Game 1 and 6 in Game 2, while his regular season average attempts are 15.
They must put an end to these struggles in Game 3 if they do not want to make this an easy series for the Rockets. However, it will be difficult for them to win a single game if Derrick Rose, Jamal Crawford and Nemanja Bjelica are the team’s leading scorers.
Since their record severely suffered when Jimmy Butler missed a period of time due to a knee injury, they are much better than an average 8th seed. But the way they are playing makes people believe that they do not even deserve to be in the playoffs.
Game 3 Objectives:
For Houston to win Game 3 and potentially get the sweep, they must connect on their three point attempts. After shooting 27 and 31 percent from behind the arc in the previous games, they will rely on threes more than ever on the road. Also, both James Harden and Chris Paul must show up simultaneously if the T-Wolves’ struggles end.
For Minnesota, it is pretty obvious: Towns and Butler have to come to play and dominate. KAT must take advantage of the Houston bigs that cannot guard him on offense and Butler has to attempt and make more shots. Also, they must play lockdown perimeter defense and limit all threes. If none of this happens, the Rockets will easily stomp over this team in 4 games.