Minnesota Timberwolves: 5 keys to series vs. Rockets

James Harden

Every time the Rockets pulled away, the Timberwolves found a way back into the game, getting to within three points in crunch time. The big man was a force on both ends, holding Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns to just eight points. 1 seed, host the first two games of the series.

Their return to the NBA Playoffs.

James Harden delivered a virtuoso performance, aided significantly by a Clint Capela double-double, and the Houston Rockets survived Game 1 of their Western Conference first-round series, earning a 104-101 victory over the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday.

Houston Rockets added Chris Paul at the start of the season and ended with a franchise-best tally of 65 wins and home court advantage for the playoffs. While the Game 1 loss was far more competitive than any of the team's four regular season meetings - which Houston swept convincingly - Sunday was an opportunity missed for Minnesota. Karl-Anthony Towns averages 21.3 points plus 12.3 rebounds, Jamal Crawford adds 10.3 points a night, Jimmy Butler kicks in a team leading 22.2 points and 5.3 rebounds while Jeff Teague adds 14.2 points plus seven assists a contest: he returned to the lineup January 10 after missing seven games with a sprained MCL. It's impossible to stop their offense entirely but the Minnesota bigs are going to have to at least consistently apply pressure, get hands in shooters' faces, and not give them the easy looks. Harden took over after that, scoring the last six points of the quarter to leave Houston up 76-72 entering the fourth.

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The Timberwolves had a one-point lead with about seven minutes left when Houston used a 9-0 run, with the last seven points from Harden, to make it 94-86 with about four minutes to go.

The Minnesota Timberwolves broke the longest current playoff drought in the National Basketball Association this past Wednesday, ending a 13-year absence with a 112-106 overtime victory over the Denver Nuggets. Andrew Wiggins is a stud for the games he shows up and plays focused. Minnesota must play tight defense and hope that the Rockets go cold from the three-point line, while they need to shoot well from 3-point range themselves. Houston is 1 in the league with 15.3 threes a night while the team is tied for 13 by shooting 36.2 percent from long range this season.

Tonight's late Rockets vs Timberwolves game will be televised exclusively on the TNT cable TV channel.

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