The Rockets host the Timberwolves in tonight’s Association playoff Sunday finale. Tip is scheduled for 9:00 p.m. ET and will be played on the Toyota Center court in south Texas. NBA Playoff Preview and Free Pick: Minnesota at Houston.
Two completely different styles of play clash on Sunday. The defenseless Minnesota Timberwolves need overtime on the final day of the regular season to clinch a playoff spot. Houston (-10.5, 215) earned the top seed in the West and for most of the season controlled their own postseason destiny. An experienced and uber capable Rockets squad that are playoff savvy take on a Wolves unit that is making their first playoff appearance in over a decade. The last time Minnesota was in the NBA playoff bracket was back in 2004, a season that included Kevin Garnett and his teammates playing in the Western Conference finals.
The bottom line with this Timberwolves squad is that they do a poor job of defending their side of the court. While Minnesota has been taking part in playoff like contests for the last week-plus they are too dependent on swingman Jimmy Butler to not only advance in this series but win one of the four games that will be played between the two Western foes.
Minnesota was able to outscore most of their opponents at home but their 17-24 road mark this season isn’t postseason worthy. And the period of time in which they were without Butler to a knee injury they were barely competitive.
Houston is deep and isn’t given enough credit for their defensive fortitude. The combination of James Harden and point guard Chris Paul dominate in this series. And Harden and company execute to near perfection against a Tom Thibodeau scheme that is defensive minded. While Minnesota takes care of the ball as well as any team in the league they rank 22nd in defensive efficiency and that won’t get the job done in terms of today’s final score, or throughout the series.
In terms of bottom line peripherals this Minnesota squad isn’t consistent on either side of the floor, nor are they capable of being consistent shooting the 3-ball to keep pace with the Rockets sharp-shooters.
Far too much has to go right for the Timberwolves to be competitive for 48 minutes, not only today, but moving forward in this series.
Supporting Minnesota based on the fact that Harden and company will be inefficient from beyond the arc is not reasonable. The Wolves’ best opportunity to keep pace with Houston in this Game #1 event to take advantage of the Rockets when they go small, or sport their second rotation. In this situation Karl-Anthony Towns in combination with Butler has to be efficient offensively.
There is significant truth to the fact that the Timberwolves team leader Jimmy Butler called out this team for being soft. The group doesn’t have positive team chemistry.
Houston isn’t just Harden and Paul. The scoring option that is Clint Capela is just one of a handful of schemes that the Rockets play off of. When Capela, James Harden and Chris Paul are in offensive rhythm this Houston team is the best in the league and capable of taking down a healthy Golden State Warriors squad.
The Rockets are second in the league in points per game (112.4). However, they rank at the bottom of the league in field goal attempts. Houston takes (42.3) and makes (15.3) more 3-pointers than any team in the league.
Conversely the Timberwolves rank last in the league in 3-pointers made.
Houston took all four meetings in the regular season with Harden averaging 27 points per game and that trend continues in this Game #1 contest on the Toyota hardwood.
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