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James Harden too much for Wolves in Game 1

The Minnesota Timberwolves played about as well defensively as they could have hoped in Game 1 against the Houston Rockets and it still wasn’t enough. James Harden was simply unstoppable.

Throughout the game, the Wolves challenged Houston’s shooters, who led the NBA in three-point attempts and makes per game. The Rockets only led by three points heading into the fourth quarter and long-distance gunners Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza and Chris Paul struggled to find their range.

Houston overall finished the game shooting under 30 percent from deep. But Harden was there to carry his team, nailing 7-of-13 from three-point land and finishing with 44 points. It was clear why fans were cheering “MVP” every time Harden went to the line.

The Wolves opened the game slowly, but fought back to close the gap to six points by the end of the first quarter. Over the next two quarters, they outscored the high-powered Rockets, who led the NBA in point differential, by two points.

The fourth quarter belonged to Harden. With the Rockets up by one with just over five minutes remaining, Houston’s superstar drove to the basket to put them up 89-86. On the next possession, Harden drove to the basket again to increase the lead to five. And then he canned a 28-foot three-pointer, giving the Rockets an eight-point advantage with 4:27 remaining.

Minnesota slowed down the rest of Houston’s attack enough to still have a chance at the end. Paul turned the ball over with eight seconds left, but Jimmy Butler missed a buzzer-beating three and the Wolves dropped the series opener 104-101.

While the Wolves could be pleased with their defensive effort  keeping the Rockets well below their season average for total scoring, but there were plenty of disappointing offensive performances on the offensive side. Karl-Anthony Towns went 3-for-9 with eight points and Butler scored just 13 points on 4-for-11 shooting. Derrick Rose had his best game as a member of the Wolves, adding 16 points in 24 minutes.

Following the game, Houston head coach Mike D’Antoni pointed out that he expected a tough matchup from Minnesota because they were a high seed before losing Butler for a stretch. But in the opener, Harden won the battle of the stars by a very wide margin.

The Wolves can’t expect to slow down the Rockets’ snipers for the rest of the series. Towns, Butler and Andrew Wiggins, who scored 18 on 7-for-15 shooting, will have to produce much more offensively for the underdog Wolves to have a shot.





wolves

Previous Story Notebook: Against the Rockets, Wolves will need more than their stars to step up Next Story Barkley on Timberwolves: They’ve got to be one of the dumbest teams I’ve ever seen