Twelve minutes of fury were all the Houston Rockets needed to remind the NBA — and probably themselves — who they really are.
Twelves minutes were all the Rockets needed to score 50 points, outscoring the Minnesota Timberwolves by 30 points in the third quarter to blow the doors of Game 4 in Minneapolis. The teams will return to Houston Wednesday night where the Rockets can close out the series.
It was the most the Rockets have scored in any single quarter this season, and when you consider how many 70-point halves they had this season, it begins to boggle the mind just how dominant a stretch that was. The TNT broadcast said after the game it was the second-highest scoring quarter in NBA playoff history, and the highest in 55 years.
The best part about it: it was almost entirely driven by James Harden and Chris Paul. At one point, they had scored 36 of the team’s 40 points. For many teams, this kind of offensive imbalance would be cringe-worthy. In Houston, it was a sight for sore eyes, finally being able to see their two superstars thrive alongside each other. To no one’s surprise, that resulted in as dominating a stretch of play in the NBA playoffs you well ever see.
There was no recovering from that haymaker for Minnesota. The Rockets scored a paltry 19 points in the fourth quarter by comparison, and were outscored in the quarter by 12 points for a final score of 119-100.
The Rockets finally got good outside shooting from multiple sources, even Eric Gordon got in on the action once the rout was on. The team shot 37.2 percent from deep in the game, but they shot better than 60 percent from deep in that pivotal third quarter.
As Xiane wrote yesterday, there are three versions of the Rockets. We hadn’t seen Peak Rockets, their fully formed selves, since the day they clinched the top seed. As Darren wrote today, even the Rockets themselves acknowledged it, and they set about changing that in the most dramatic, explosive way possible.
Harden finished the game with 36 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals and a turnover. CP3 wound up with 25 points, 6 assists, 6 rebounds, 5 steals and a turnover. The points guard combined for 61 points, 9 steals, 9 assists and 2 turnovers. That is how guards dominate a game.
The backcourt was not the only dominance on display. While Karl-Anthony Towns finally went off in a game (he finished with 21 points and 15 rebounds), Clint Capela still won the battle on the interior, finishing with 14 points and 17 rebounds, outblocking Towns 4-0 and turning the ball over one time to Towns’ five giveaways.
The Rockets are now 6-1 on the season against the Wolves, and this series is effectively over. The Rockets have not lost consecutive games since Jan. 4 and 6 when Harden was injured. Their ability to correct from their loss was as encouraging a sign as ever that this team is ready to compete for a championship. More nights like Monday would help, too.