It's never easy. Any coach will tell you that winning is hard, which is why it is so prized. For the Rockets, they got a lesson on Saturday night when the Timberwolves, down 0-2, bounced back with a resounding 121-105 win. It was a painful reminder for fans that the Rockets are most certainly fallible and, in truth, haven't been themselves for a couple weeks.
Still, there will be an opportunity for redemption in game three Monday night.
4. Broom salesmen
If you were hoping to have a run on brooms this week with a Rockets sweep, that ended on Saturday. Fans, especially the most reactive variety on social media, seemed rather fatalist after the loss (as if we learned nothing from the Astros last season), but we are concerned for all of those broom salesmen who aren't going to have a boom as many of them probably thought.
3. Minnesota fans chanting "Wolves in six."
We get that the fans were super pumped about the playoffs being back in Minneapolis, but let's slow the roll on the whole "we will sweep the next four games" business. Try to act like you've been there before (even though you haven't in a generation).
2. Three-point shooting of P.J. Tucker, Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza, and Gerald Green.
As our friends at ClutchFans pointed out on Twitter Saturday night, 62 percent of the Rockets threes have been taken by these four guys who are shooting 21, 23, 26 and 33 percent respectively. Gordon, who had a pretty long layoff at the end of the season, is both the most perplexing and troubling of the bunch. His offense off the bench is critically important to the Rockets second team.
1. Rockets defense
After two very solid defensive outings in games one and two, the Rockets defense fell apart allowing 121 points on 50 percent shooting. Minnesota hit 15 threes, but more importantly, they crushed the Rockets in the paint as perimeter players constantly got by defenders and to the rim with ease. The Rockets either need to start raining threes or improve the defense (preferably both) if they want to dispatch the Wolves and get to round two.
While his defense remains steady, Trevor Ariza's outside shooting has been rough...along with his teammates.
Photo by Eric Sauceda
4. Ryan Anderson
Remember him? Relegated to the bench and then the training room late in the season, Ryno made his return to hit 4-6 from distance for 12 points. He gave the Rockets a rare, reliable outside shooting presence for the first time in the series. It was a welcome sight.
3. Minnesota three-point shooting
The Wolves ranked last in the NBA in three-point shooting, but torched the Rockets Saturday shooting threes like they had switched bodies with their opponents. They hit nearly 56 percent of what they took beyond the arc, a feat they are unlikely to repeat. Still, it was impressive for one night.
2. Minnesota fans
Setting aside the aforementioned chant, you have to appreciate the fact that this is a fan base that has not sniffed the playoffs in 14 years. They were particularly rowdy on Saturday night and gave the home team quite the boost. Good for them.
1. Minnesota star players
Karl-Anthony Towns awoke from his playoffs slumber and Jimmy Butler continued to play well as the Wolves main guys finally bested the Rockets. Towns, who had not scored in double digits in the series, had 18 points and 16 boards. Butler had 28 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists, while point guard Jeff Teague continued to look good, scoring 20 and dishing 8 assists.