It was only a matter of time. For the Rockets, that time was just over five quarters. In all of game one of the first round matchup with Minnesota, the Rockets could not shoot straight. The first quarter of game two, they were worse, hitting only 20 percent of their shots. Fortunately, their defense kept the game close and then the skies opened as they did what they had so often throughout the season, crushing their opponent.
The Rockets led by 27 and finished with a 20-point victory, 102-82 on Wednesday night. Even in a blowout, it wasn't particularly pretty. The Rockets shot only 38 percent from the field. But, it was more than enough to beat the helpless Timberwolves before they head to Minnesota up 2-0.
4. James Harden: Defender
Remember a couple years ago the videos of James Harden playing horrible defense that were making the rounds? Burn those. Harden was abysmal on offense, shooting 2-18 from the floor including 1-10 from three (basically the opposite of game one). He had 7 assists, but it was his defense that kept his plus-minus rating in the positive. He finished with 3 steals and 3 blocks. Yes, blocks. And he had his hands in the middle of loads of plays on the defensive end of the floor. He made up for his offensive struggles with truly great defense, something we may not have seen from Harden in previous years.
3. Chris Paul
My colleague and fellow Press writer mentioned on Twitter Wednesday night what many fail to remember about the trade for Chris Paul: "As we’re finding out tonight, the story of acquiring Chris Paul was never concern over he and Harden playing together. It was the hammer of having one of them on the floor ALWAYS." For as bad as Paul was in game one, he was magnificent in game two, going for 27 points on 10-18 shooting while dishing 8 assists with only a single turnover. The ability to play one of two world-class ball handlers and decision makers for an entire game is something no other team has.
2. Houston Offense
While the Rockets were laying the wood to the Timberwolves, the Astros were having their own wood-laying party in Seattle. With Gerrit Cole on the mound dealing (again), they took a 1-1 game into the seventh before the Astros did something they hadn't done in a while, put up a six-run frame, leading to a 7-1 win over the Mariners. It was as if the entire city of Houston discovered offense on Wednesday night.
1. Gerald Green
It's hard not to be thrilled for Gerald Green, a native Houstonian with an Interstate 45 tattoo on his shoulder and hair routinely fashioned into the shape of one of the local team logos. The guy was literally at home hoping to hook up with a team early in the season when the Rockets called. The team he grew up watching became a second chance and he has been lights out. His energy is refreshing, but his athleticism and offensive aggressiveness are exactly what the Rockets needed. On Wednesday, he single handedly broke the team out of its funk, scoring 26 points, grabbing 12 boards and hitting 5 three pointers.
Karl-Anthony Towns had only been held to single-digit scoring twice this season. The last time it happened was on Dec 4th. The #Rockets have now done it in both Games 1 and 2, holding him to eight and five points respectively.— ClutchFans (@clutchfans) April 19, 2018
4. Eric Gordon
Maybe it is because he had such a long layoff, resting up with a nagging injury at the end of the season, but Eric Gordon has been awful the first two games of this series. He went 2-10 from three Wednesday night (3-13 overall). When he hit a three in the fourth quarter with the game already in the bag, he looked up at the sky as if he wanted to tell the universe, "Come on, man." Fortunately, the Rockets don't need him to be an effective shooter just yet, but they will, so let's hope he gets it together.
3. Minnesota Shooters
The Timberwolves shot 38 percent from the floor and 27 percent from three. There were times when their shots didn't even look close to going in. For a team that was ranked as one of the better offensive teams in the NBA, their one flaw is they don't shoot well from distance. The Rockets have clogged the lane and forced the Wolves to beat them from outside and they can't do it.
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2. The Andrew Wiggins Game Plan
In two straight games, the guy taking the most shots has been Andrew Wiggins. That is not the game plan you want if you want to win. Wiggins is a stunning athletic specimen, but he often plays out of control, can't shoot from outside about 10 feet and isn't a great finisher at the basket. Yet, there he was trying spin moves and firing shots from everywhere on the floor. If this is their game plan, get out the brooms.
1. Karl-Anthony Towns
As one of the great young talents in the NBA, it is understandable that Towns might struggle in his first taste of the playoffs. But he is, by far, Minnesota's best player and he has been rendered virtually worthless on the floor through two games. In game two, he went 2-9 from the floor, scoring only 5 points while grabbing 10 rebounds. He has been thoroughly outplayed by Clint Capela and has looked lost on the court. If they don't find a way to get him more involved, this series will be over by game four. It might anyway.