It only took fourteen years but the Minnesota Timberwolves finally got another victory in the playoffs. After going down 0-2 in the best of seven series with the Rockets, the Timberwolves won 121-105 on Saturday night. Coming off of that victory, the Timberwolves will now look to even the series when the Houston Rockets travel to the Target Center Monday night to take on the Timberwolves with tip off scheduled for 8:00 pm ET.
The spread comes in at the Houston Rockets -5.5 and the Minnesota Timberwolves +5.5. The over/under for total points scored is set at 219.
Houston Rockets Look To Get Back On Track
After a pretty poor performance in game two, James Harden played pretty well on the offensive side in game three. Harden scored 29 points on 9 of 21 shooting. He also went 3 for 8 from behind the arc. Additionally, Harden added 7 rebounds and 7 assists. Others played relatively well, too, as Chris Paul had 17 points and 6 assists, Ryan Anderson hit 4 threes for 12 points and Eric Gordon added 15. The biggest problem for the Rockets was not their offense, but a poor defensive effort Saturday night.
As a team, the Timberwolves shot 50% from the field on Saturday, including 55.6% (15 of 27) from behind the three. The most notable issue on the defensive side was trying to contain Minnesota center, Karl-Anthony Towns. In the game on Saturday, Towns had 18 points and 16 rebounds and really just seemed to be too much for Houston’s Clint Capela. This was a big change from game two, when Towns only scored 5 points and had 10 rebounds. As one of the major catalysts for the Timberwolves, Capela and the Rockets are going to have to find a way to slow Towns down again in game 4 or they might find themselves in a similar situation.
Timberwolves Looking For Consistency From Stars
Towns wasn’t the only Minnesota player to perform better in game 3. After only scoring 8 points in game one, Jeff Teague put up 23 points and 8 assists in the victory. Jimmy Butler also came out much stronger as he put up 28 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists after only scoring 11 in game 2. If the Wolves have any chance of pushing the series even, they are going to have to continue to get solid performances out of these three in addition to starting forward Andrew Wiggins, who put up 20 points with 5 rebounds and 5 assists in game 3. Overall, it is probably unrealistic for the Timberwolves to shoot at or above the 50 percent mark again in game four, but if they want to match the high-powered offense of the Rockets, they are going to need to be close.
The Wolves defense is also going to need to step up if they have a chance of continued success. The 28th rated defense during the regular season, according to basketball-reference.com, have not really contained the Rockets much this series. Even in game 2, when James Harden only scored 12 points, they still allowed the Rockets to score 102 points as both Chris Paul (27 points) and Gerald Green (21 points) went off. In fact, in all three of the games thus far, the Rockets have scored over 100 points. It speaks volumes to the depth of the Houston offense, but also illustrates a major concern for the Timberwolves. They are not going to be able to outscore the Rockets on a nightly basis, but they haven’t yet shown a way to slow them down either. That is a major issue if they hope to have any chance of winning this series.
My Pick: Houston Rockets -5.5
I think that the Rockets are going to look at game 3 as a wakeup call. I do think that the Timberwolves keep game 4 close throughout the first few quarters, but I think the Rockets ultimately pull away in the final quarter. It will be interesting to see how Karl-Anthony Towns plays in game 4, especially after getting a little confidence in game 3, but I think the Rockets are going to show what made them the first ranked team in adjusted offense this year (according to basketball-reference.com) once again, especially against the weaker defense of Minnesota. Take the Rockets -5.5.