That Was Close:The Houston Rockets Defeat Minnesota Timberwolves 104 -101 in First Playoff Game of the Series

The Houston Rockets narrowly escaped defeat by the Minnesota Timberwolves due to stand- out performances by Clint Capela and James Harden.

Capela ended the night with 24 points, 12 rebounds and 3 key blocks; 20 of those points were made before halftime and the Rockets needed every single point. Whether it was a matter of finishing at the rim or getting the ball fed to him by Harden, Capela’s performance was impressive.

Once Capela hit the 20-point mark, Harden turned on the Rocket jets and went off. He was 15-of-26 shooting and 7 of 12 from beyond the arc ending with 44 points. Beyond that, he made it clear that he was un-guardable!

“Another day for James,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said of Harden’s performance. “He’s done it all year. He really stepped up. We were struggling to make shots, struggling to really have any kind of rhythm of play, and James put us on his back. He’s been doing it for a while now.”

As impressive as the 44 points were for Harden, the Rockets’ again needed each and every point. Truth is, it was just an off night for the players that the team has come to rely on. Trevor Ariza, Eric Gordon, PJ Tucker, and hometown hero Gerald Green all had lackluster performances. The team, who relies heavily on threes, went 10 for 37; 7 of those 10 were made by Harden. Probably the most shocking of all was Chris Paul’s uncharacteristically poor performance. He was -4 when on the court and ended up having more turnovers than assists. After Paul lobbed the ball across the court in the vicinity of Eric Gordon with 8.7 seconds left in the game, fans were left wondering why?

“I looked like I was with the ‘Bad News Bears,’” Paul said of his Game 1 performance. “But at the end of the day, it’s all about getting the win.”

This is true. In the post-season you just have to win 16 games and the Rockets have won one thanks to the inspired performance of Harden. Truth be told, the Timberwolves are no walk in the park. They ended up being the 8th seed due to the loss of one Jimmy Butler. When Butler was a part of their system they were the #3 seed. That isn’t lost on Coach D’Antoni or Harden.

For some reason Karl-Anthony Towns was underutilized although he was a big man match up with smaller defenders. Town averaged more than 21 points a game in the regular season but for some reason ended his night with 8 points out of 9 shot attempts in 40 minutes.

There is a lot of pressure on Houston. In Game 1, Harden stepped up and did what needed to be done. His ability to bypass defenders and get to the basket or his lethal step-back three, which is the cannon in his arsenal, is incredible.

“If you have that aggressive mindset, good things will happen,” Harden said after Game 1. “If they gave me space enough to get my shot off, I shot it. If they were pressuring me enough to get by them to make a play for myself or somebody else, then I did that. Whether it’s tonight, whether it’s 82 regular-season games, I’m going to do the same thing.”

With a mindset like that, there’s no doubt Harden is determined to do that 15 more times.