It was originally intended to be a short night for the Houston starters, and though the game was a lot tighter and they played significantly more than anticipated, the Rockets still head into the postseason on a high note following a 123-118 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
James Harden triple doubled (ZOMFGTRIPLEDOUBLEZMVP!!!), putting in 27 points on a smoothly efficient 8 for 13 from the field, to go along with 12 assists, 10 rebounds and 4 steals to lead the Rockets to their final regular season victory. He did end up playing 35 minutes, however, in what head coach Mike D’Antoni had dubbed a “dress rehearsal” for the playoffs. For a while, however, the game was looking like a bad harbinger.
After the Rockets jumped out to a quick 13-point lead in the first quarter, the shots stopped falling and the Rockets got lazy with their defense. They actually fell behind to the Wolves for a while in the second before battling back to tie the game at 60 apiece at intermission.
Not satisfied with an uneven performance heading into the opening round of the playoffs, D’Antoni sent his A-team back out in the second half, and they responded with a significantly better performance. The Rockets stepped on the gas pedal and ran the Wolves off the floor, building a 118-99 lead before relaxing at the game’s close for the final five-point margin. No one in H-town really rested, but the team should be satisfied that they were able to turn up the juice when needed and coast to a win.
In addition to Harden’s triple dip, the Rockets also received 20 points from Ryan Anderson, who was 6-15 (yes, 15!) from beyond the arc, and they got a 22-point, 10-rebound double-double from Clint Capela. Trevor Ariza finished with 15 points, Eric Gordon tallied 11, and Patrick Beverley put in a vintage Wolverine performance with 10 points, 10 rebounds 7 assists and 3 steals.
The Timberwolves were led by Karl-Anthony Towns, who racked up 28 points and 21 rebounds, Andrew Wiggins, who finished with 21 points, and Shabazz Muhammed, who had 22.
Minnesota finishes the season with a 31-51 record, and the breakout season many were anticipating from the Wolves just never quite materialized. The team did show some promise, but they’ll be headed back to the lottery once again.
The Rockets, on the other hand, finish at 55-27 and the third seed in the Western Conference, which was better than anyone had them pegged for before the season began. They will take on the sixth-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder and Russell Westbrook, who appears to have a lock down on the MVP award voting, at least as some of the early independent tallies are coming in.
No matter, basketball is a team sport, and the Rockets are favored in their series against the Thunder for a reason, and I look forward to Houston sending OKC packing in short order.
When was the last time the supposed MVP favorite wasn’t predicted to get out of the first round of the playoffs? It’d be tough to find odds going all the way back, but if you said “never”, you might not be wrong. That’s what we’re looking at here if Russ wins this thing. It’s interesting times we’re living in.
See you in Game One, Russ. The real MVP (you know, the one with the giant beard) has some business to attend to.