Houston Rockets Playoff Schedule

Cheryl Sanders
April 16, 2018

Rarely can you call Game 1 of a seven-game series a "must win", but the way things unfolded Sunday night in Houston, the Timberwolves had to win Game 1.

As I was looking over the potential playoff scenarios this week, I kept looking at the ways the Timberwolves could avoid the Rockets - because that matchup meant the likelihood of a four- or five-game exit for the Wolves.

The Timberwolves finished 23rd in defensive efficiency during the regular season, so any expectation that they might lock down the Rockets this series is foolhardy. Houston, the most prolific 3-point shooting team in the league by volume, hit 69 of 159 3s in those four games for a robust 43.4 percent. Derrick Rose's minutes likely have to increase and Jamal Crawford will have to defend.

That all added up to the Wolves holding a one-point advantage with just more than six minutes to play.

Houston went 4-0, with home court victories on January 18 and February 23, and road wins on February 13 and March 18.

Instead, the Rockets went on a run.

James Harden is a contender for MVP this season.

To account for this apparent mismatch, bookmakers opened the Rockets as massive 10.5-point favorites.

Towns finished the series opener with a paltry output of eight points. They have one of the best rim protecting centers in Clint Capela, have an experienced wing and one of the strongest benches in the National Basketball Association. The Rockets claimed the first three meetings by 18 points each and led by 25 in a 129-120 road victory March 18. Capela is big enough that he should be able to contain Karl-Anthony Towns in the paint, while P.J.

Every time the Rockets pulled away, the Timberwolves found a way back into the game, getting to within three points in crunch time. 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.

This is Towns' first time playing in the playoffs so he'll have to get used to a more intense game and playing on a bigger stage than he's ever seen. After a strong first quarter, Andrew Wiggins struggled in the second half. Jimmy Butler led the Timberwolves with 31 points in the win. While his contributions are welcomed by the Wolves, they're not enough.

No. 4: Tenacious Towns-Karl-Anthony Towns averaged 23.8 points and 14.8 rebounds in four meetings with the Rockets this season.

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