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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TEXANS HAVE ZERO DEPTH AT CORNER

Here's what Davante Adams' big day against the Texans really proved

Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images

Seven weeks into the season, Bradley Roby has been the sole bright spot playing for a secondary that has been subpar at best. He entered Week 7 against the Green Bay Packers trailing only Eric Murray for the most tackles as a defensive back, while owning the Houston Texans' only interception of the season.

During his media availability on Thursday, Roby spoke about having the Texans' confidence to trust him as the primary defender shadowing the opposing team's best receiver.

And with Davante Adams coming to NRG Stadium with Aaron Rodgers on Sunday, Roby had an opportunity to illustrate why Houston's coaching staff have so much faith in him.

Three plays into the game, Roby sustained a knee injury that sidelined him the rest of the afternoon. In his absence, the Texans felt his importance competing with a depleted secondary.

Adams would go on to have a career day against the Texans. He recorded a career-best 196 receiving yards on 13-of-18 targets and two touchdowns — as the Packers handed the Texans a 35-20 loss on Sunday.

Had the Fort Worth native avoided the injury, would it have resulted in a victory for the Texans? Perhaps not. It is always hard for a team to come away victorious after going scoreless during the first half, but Roby would have limited the destruction caused by Adams. Rogers completed four deep passes where he recorded 28 or more yards, with Adams being the recipient of three.

Not only did Houston have to deal with the effects of not having their best corner shadow one of the league's premier receivers, but the team was not prepared to battle without Roby, according to Michael Thomas following the loss.

"When you lose your starting corner like that, it's going to affect [the team]," Thomas said. "Anytime you have to make adjustments. If you're not prepared, and you don't have the right mindset, then you're probably not going to get the right results you want. Maybe we could have done it a little sooner, but you definitely miss a guy like Roby. You plan on having your number one guy go against their number one guy all the time."

Roby's premature exit left the Texans with a gaping void to slowdown Rodgers and the Packers without two of their projected starting corners. Gareon Conley — who revived his career during the second half of last season — has yet to play a single snap for Houston in 2020 as he continues to recover from offseason ankle surgery.

Their lackluster performance on Sunday showcased the lack of depth and talent the Texans have in the secondary. And with the trade deadline a week away, it may be in the Texans' best interest to invest in a young defensive back they can build around in the future — especially considering the timetable on Conley's return remains unknown.

Interim head coach Romeo Crennel said on Monday that the team is hoping Roby's injury is short-term and hopes to have their top corner make his return following the bye.

At 1-6 on the year, all the Texans have left to play for is pride as they close out the remaining nine games of the season, and the best way is to prevent another receiver from recording nearly 200 yards in a single game.

For this vulnerable secondary, it is a feat easier said than done. And with the talents of Jarvis Landry, T.Y. Hilton, and A.J. Brown remaining on the schedule, it is only best for Roby to make his return to the field sooner rather than later.

"I take pride in it. It's an opportunity that not a lot of guys get throughout the league, and I'm thankful for that. Just to be able to go against the best and try my best for the team and see how I match up. I'm very thankful for that." — Roby.

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