GAME 4 RECAP
Rockets use ridiculous third quarter to rout Wolves, lead series 3-1
After scraping out a one-point lead at halftime, the Rockets left Houston fans with plenty of cause for concern. A 50 point third quarter would calm most of those fears, however, as Houston cruised to a 119-100 victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
A lethargic Rockets tipped off against the Timberwolves and Minnesota kept pace by efficiently attacking the inside. Minnesota Guard Derrick Rose continued to turn back the clock on Houston, and shades of the former MVP could be seen as he effortlessly sliced through the lane.
More concerning was the Rockets overall shooting to start the first half. James Harden seemed to be continuing his cold streak from game 3, as he started the game 1-8 from the field. The team as a whole struggled with the exception of Trevor Ariza, who kept the Rockets competitive with 13 first half points.
The third quarter, however, was a completely different story. The Rockets shifted into a completely different gear and torched the Timberwolves with a 50-20 point third quarter. Leading the charge was Harden with 22 points, followed by Paul with 15 points each in the quarter alone. The onslaught would predictably prove to be too much for the Timberwolves to overcome and the Rockets left Target Center with a 3-1 series lead heading back to Houston on Monday.
1) Karl Anthony-Towns is a non factor.
Don’t let the box score fool you. Towns finished with 22 points, sure. Most of those points, however, were in garbage time when the Rockets had long ago checked out of the game mentally. The biggest whiff I’ve made in discussing this series so far has been my assumption that Towns would be force, and he has been anything but. Meanwhile Clint Capela walked off the court with a 14 point, 17 rebound, 4 block night.
2) The defense was the real story.
Most people are going to focus on the offensive explosion in this game, but it wouldn’t have happened without an equally impressive defensive showing from the entire team. Houston won the turnover battle 7-17, with Clint Capela swatting 4 shots, and Harden and Paul accounting for 5 and 4 steals respectively. The Rockets played chippy playoff basketball and it worked.
3) The Rockets need to stay focused.
This entire series has been about the Rockets’ intensity and ability to maintain it throughout four quarters. Houston punched their playoff ticket so early that people speculated whether they would be able to turn it on or be caught napping. Game three they were caught napping and were run out of the building, albeit by a timberwolves team that shot almost 60% from behind the arc. After building a 35 point lead, more signs of the same were present, as a relaxed Rockets’ squad allowed Minnesota to trim the lead down to 20. Look, I understand that criticizing a team that was still leading by 20 points sounds ridiculous, but this Rockets season probably won't be considered a success unless they hoist a trophy in early June. A championship team needs to focus on maintaining its intensity throughout the game. Houston could have easily won this game by 40 or more if they had.