GAME 4 RECAP

Rockets use ridiculous third quarter to rout Wolves, lead series 3-1

Karl Anthony Towns had a nice state line, but... Tim Warner/Getty Images

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.

Takeaways:

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.

 

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The Houston Texans have just a couple of practices before their preseason debut. Here are 11 observations from Tuesday’s workout.

1.The offense stunk on Tuesday. It was inconsistent and resembled more of last year’s disappointing performances than any other practices in this training camp.

2. Davis Mills and his receivers had a few miscommunications on Tuesday. Mills sailed a pass to nobody when he and Brandin Cooks weren’t on the same page. There were some other throws to nowhere in the day. It was something that hadn’t been present at all in training camp to this point.

3. There were a few “good coverage” notes on Tuesday. Not to say there was one specific player, but a handful of team-level efforts that led to the note.

4. It wasn’t all wrong from the offense. After a pass to nowhere Davis Mills and the offense bounced back. It was a second down during a team drill and Mills fired a pass to Chris Moore for six yards. Rex Burkhead would pick up a first down on a rush a play later. A non-positive play last year on first down doomed this team. That hopefully won’t be the case for this year’s team.

5. Chad Beebe is going into his fifth season in the NFL, his first with the Texans. The former Vikings pass catcher has flashed a few times in training camp. He has an uphill battle being new to the team but is trying to make himself a factor.

6. Phillip Dorsett had a big catch over the middle. Davis Mills stood back and delivered as the offensive line held up and Dorsett reeled it in for a huge gain. No defenders were around him. It is between Dorsett and Chris Moore for the chance to be the slot wideout opening day. With Dorsett’s return to practice, it is becoming a fun camp battle.

7.Speaking of returns to practice, Tytus Howard was back. Howard has his reps managed and after practice, offensive line coach George Warhop Howard was “getting his wind” back. When Howard was having his reps managed rookie tackle Austin Deculus played at right tackle. Deculus looks much more consistent than minicamp and OTAs.

8. Kenyon Green is still out with an injury. It is getting to a critical time where the time missed might prevent the first-rounder from starting week one. Max Scharping hasn’t looked bad in his chances with the first team. Offensive line coach George Warhop said they believe in Green and his ability and he has been in meetings to stay up to date.

9. Ka’imi Fairbairn was perfect in one of the special team periods. He drilled all five kicks, each further than the last, and was crushing the football.

10. Derek Stingley was very sticky in some early reps on Nico Collins. The third overall pick is so smooth when he is working. Later his coverage forced a throw from the offense that had no chance of being completed.

11. The play of the day was made by Derek Stingley. The offense was about five or six yards out of the end zone needing a touchdown to win. With six seconds left on the clock, any completed pass that wasn’t a touchdown was game over. Davis Mills dropped back a step and fired to Nico Collins who Stingley covered. The rookie kept the second-year player out of the end zone to earn the defense a win. This was one of the better Stingley days and he did a lot of work. At one point, it looked as though he and Rex Burkhead had some words and almost led to an offense and defense scuffle, but it stayed to just some shouting. The rookie shined today.

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