NBA PLAYOFFS

Fred Faour: 5 thoughts on the Rockets 104-101 win over the Timberwolves in Game 1

Chris Paul (left) was not good in Game 1. James Harden was. Houston Rockets/Facebook

The real season has started for the Rockets, and how they perform in the playoffs will determine how this team is remembered. The opening series against the Minnesota T Wolves will be a test, as Joel Blank writes, but one the Rockets should pass. They did in Game 1, but it was not easy. 

Here are five quick thoughts from the Rockets Game 1, 104-101 win over the Timberwolves.

1) Don't panic: Yes, the game was close and in doubt until the final seconds. The Rockets needed a huge effort from James Harden (44 points) to escape with a win. He came up big in the fourth quarter in particular. But the Rockets can play a lot better. The live by the 3, die by the 3 mentality almost killed them. They were a brutal 10 of 37 from behind the arc in Game 1. Harden was 7 of 12, making the rest of the team 3 of 25. That simply won't cut it. Expect a much better effort in Game 2. 

2) The Wolves can improve, too, but how much? Karl-Anthony Towns had just eight points and the Wolves seemed to ignore him in the paint. He should be much more involved going forward. But it's also hard to expect 16 points out of Derek Rose every night. Still, a nice, balanced game from the Wolves, who had every chance to steal Game 1. 

3) Chris Paul needs to be much better. He had just 14 points on 5 of 14 shooting, but most telling was a season high six turnovers, including two really bad ones late in the game when the Rockets should have closed it out. They will need more from him if they are to accomplish their goals and protecting the basketball late in games should be priority No. 1. 

4) Mismatch on the bench: The Rockets should have the advantage in depth, but they were outscored 38-16 by the Wolves bench in Game 1, part of the reason the Wolves hung around so long. 

5) Closing the door: Harden's big fourth-quarter effort got it done, but the Rockets tried their hardest to fail to close out the game. They gave up a free fast break after a missed free throw where everyone stood around, thinking there was another free throw to come. Paul's awful pass gave the Wolves a chance at a late-tying three. The game basically became a Harden one on one, run down the clock contest. That's fine if Harden is hitting his shots, and he was in Game 1. But they lose this game a lot of nights. The late-game questions will continue, especially if they blow a game like this.

The bottom line: Losing a Game 1 at home is never ideal, so the Rockets did well to escape. The Timberwolves came in having already essentially started the playoffs with a play-in game, while the Rockets have been coasting for weeks, so the signs all pointed to Minnesota throwing a scare into them. Having said that, Paul will be better in Game 2, Mike D'Antoni will make some adjustments that will hopefully lead to better 3-point shooting, the bench should be more competitive and the Rockets should improve as the series goes on. 

 

 

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
Let him cook! Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

The Houston Rockets are in the midst of a rebuild. Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr are studs. KPJ just signed a four-year extension with the team. Other guys like Jabari Smith Jr, Kenyon Martin Jr, Alperen Sengun, Josh Christopher, Tari Eason, and Jae'Sean Tate are really good pieces to surround Green and KPJ with. The only issue with this group: they're REALLY young! Tate is the elder statesman at 27 of the young nucleus. Most are barely old enough to buy a drink. Some still aren't old enough! They're a bunch of green bananas waiting to turn yellow to slightly brown and be ripe enough for consumption.

We need to give it time. Just like bananas, they take time to ripen. Coach Stephen Silas is known for developing young players. His most prized student is the star player for that team in South Oklahoma up 45. Number 77 for that team credited Silas with helping him realize his All-Pro potential while Silas was a part of the coaching staff there. To a man, all his former players credit him with being a positive influence on their careers. So why are fans in a rush to get rid of him?

When you look at the Rockets' record over the last few years, it's gross. Sure, they've been a lottery team the last couple of seasons, but that was by design. As part of the Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook trades, they gave away pick swap rights. Had they not been that bad, they wouldn't have been able to draft Green or Smith Jr. Those two guys are building blocks for the future, along with KPJ. Giving those picks away would've put this team further down the totem pole of developing themselves into a contender. Losing pays off when you can hit on high lottery picks.

If you give a chef dirt, bread, ham, molded cheese, and spoiled mayo, can you expect anything else but a nasty ham sandwich? How about if the chef was given a steak that is almost rotten, potatoes with root growth, and spoiled butter? Could you expect a better meal than the sandwich? Yes! However, that meal may still cause a stomachache. Now, give said chef a full complement of gourmet groceries and guess what you'll get?

This is why I say let Silas cook. He's the perfect coach for this group of kids. He can teach them all the fundamentals of the game at this level and help them grow into their full potential. If there's a change to be made on the sidelines, move Silas into a front office role, but DO NOT get rid of him! Guys like him are too valuable. Why do you think Mark Cuban hated losing him, but knew he couldn't retain him because he had a head coach already? Cuban knew what he had in Silas and what Silas did for Luka Doncic. He can do something similar for the Rockets if given the time to work his magic.

Should Tilman Fertita find the need to move on, I'd look for a more experienced coach who can guide them from bottom of the playoff ladder into top four in the West and real contenders. For now, Silas is the head chef. Continue giving him the groceries he needs, and he'll continue giving these kids the lessons they need to develop. Changing the coach now could stunt their growth. Let him cook!

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome