Remember when Houston acquired Chris Paul and many chuckled wondering if he and James Harden, two players who always seemed to need the ball in their hands to exist? (I was one of those) These two proved everyone wrong and they and their teammates had the greatest regular season in Houston history with 65 wins and were the best team in the league from the start.
Minnesota added Jimmy Butler, a coach Tom Thibodeau favorite when they were back in Chicago together, hoping he could teach the young players the right way to be successful. Also, let’s be honest, ‘Tibs’ was thinking about future employment and was desperate to end 14-year playoff drought, surrounded by 10,000 lakes in the state.
Houston is a supersized -3500 favorite to win the series against the Timberwolves (+1750) and is currently behind Golden State, according to the odds, to become NBA champions this season. Here are this season’s conflicts to start with, followed by series thoughts.
Regular Season Results – From Statfox.com
|Shooting||3pt shots||Free Throws||Rebounds|
When the Rockets lost Game 6 at home 114-75 to San Antonio in the West semis a year ago to lose the series, most watching the contest thought Harden quit on the team. The Houston front office determined their team needed another star player because that is how you win NBA championships and added Paul.
Forget the Rockets 3-3 finish, this team played bored waiting for the postseason, believing this is their time. It is a given every fan and basketball bettor knows how good the Rockets offense is (2nd in scoring and 1st in efficiency), What turned this into elite club is transforming into a top quality defensive team. Here are the numbers to prove it.
Field Goal Percentage Allowed and Defensive Efficiency
2016-17 – 21st and 15th
2017-18 – 6th and 6th
There is tremendous pressure on Harden and Paul to at least reach The Finals, let’s see how they start handling it.
It’s Time For Minnesota’s Young Players to Grow Up
T-Wolves hoops fans are in unfamiliar territory. As of this week, they are thinking about spring yard work and preparing the boat for another summer of fun. But with the Timberwolves in the playoffs, those activities can be put off, rejoicing their team is back in the postseason, albeit, not for a long time presumably.
Also, thank goodness for Butler, who returned from a knee injury to play the last three games, all Minnesota victories and necessary to secure a Sweet 16 berth.
Thibodeau may be an unrelenting coach, but he understands, you have to play hard to win. In this series, Tibs knows what to expect from veterans like Butler, Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson and Jamal Crawford. But what the Timberwolves really need is for Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins to give supreme effort on both sides of the floor every minute they play.
If this pair coasts like they are prone to do (especially Wiggins), Minnesota will be swept and not cover a spread. If they perform like there older teammates, they could push this to six-game series and cover half of them.
The End Result
While a sweep cannot be ruled out, Minnesota and its fans give a great effort in first playoff home encounter in Game 3 since Usher sang “Burn” and Houston earns gentlemen’s sweep in five.
Doug Upstone wrote this for ScoresandStats.com