The Houston Rockets threw an early scare into their home fans with a slow and ugly start, but they rebounded after the first period with stellar games from both Chris Paul and Gerald Green to wipe out the Minnesota Timberwolves 102-82.
Paul led the way with 27 points, 8 assists, and 3 steals, as he bounced back from an underwhelming performance in game one to carry the Rockets on a night that James Harden shot just 2-18 from the field. Paul was in total control of the offense, and at times, looked absolutely spectacular.
Green also deserves a lot of credit for helping the Rockets snap out of their first-quarter funk. Houston went into the second period down 23-18, and they were shooting 21 percent from the field and 2-10 from three. Enter Gerald Green.
He knocked down 3 threes in the period and grabbed 7 boards before halftime as well, on his way to a 21-point, 12-rebound double double on the evening. It was his energy in the second quarter that lighted the powder keg to spark a 28-5 Houston run that turned a deficit into a blowout.
Houston’s defense also deserves credit for keeping the Wolves in check for the second straight contest. Minnesota shot just 38 percent from the field and turned the ball over 16 times on the night. The Beard, who finished with just 12 points off of his poor shooting, contributed 3 steals and 3 blocks on that end of the court, including this beauty in the fourth quarter.
Clint Capela was also superb defensively, as he once again locked down Karl-Anthony Towns, holding the Minnesota big man to just 5 points on 2-9 shooting. Capela also grabbed 16 boards and blocked a shot.
The Rockets also got a double-digit scoring night from Trevor Ariza, who finished with 15 points and 5 rebounds, and they also received a fine night from Nene. His box was a little underwhelming with 0 points and 4 rebounds, but he did block 2 shots and he generally controlled the paint with his physicality in his 12 minutes of court time.
The Wolves were led by Nemanja Bjelica, who finished with 16 points off of the bench, and they also got 13 from Andrew Wiggins and 11 from Jimmy Butler to round out the Minnesota players in double figures.
The Houston defense was so dominant that the Rockets shot just 36 percent from the field themselves (Harden and Eric Gordon were a combined 5-31), but they never trailed again after taking the lead for good early in the second period.
The Rockets are now up 2-0 in the series, and they’ll take a few days off before returning to action on Saturday night in Minnesota. They’ll need to be a little more consistent offensively, especially as they go on the road against a Wolves team that won 30 games at home this season, but the defense is playing at a really high level at the moment, and the shots did show some signs of falling tonight.
If the Rockets can catch their groove offensively, they have a good chance of taking care of business away from home as well.