Wolves at Rockets
8:00 pm CDT
TNT and FSN
Here we are. After 14 years of serving as the NBA’s playoff punchline, the Minnesota Timberwolves return to the postseason tonight to face the Houston Rockets at the Toyota Center. Despite the fact that the Wolves squeaked into the final spot in the playoffs on the last leg of an overtime-play-in thriller, this marks a major accomplishment for a franchise that has endured a seemingly unending string of tired tenures and rebuilding efforts.
Tonight we get to witness the vision Flip Saunders set out toward four years ago when he sent a disgruntled Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers and decided to start things from scratch one last time. In many ways, that move led the Wolves’ franchise to where they are right now, gearing up for the opportunity to take down the elite of the NBA world.
In the four games the Wolves played Houston during the regular season this year, the Rockets won handily in a way few teams can manage when going up against a star as impactful as Jimmy Butler. But as we’ve seen over the course of those four games, this Rockets team is capable of punishing you in many ways on offense, which means these games have a chance to get out of hand very quickly.
At their best, the Rockets are the prototype for the modern NBA team, firing threes from everywhere on the floor coupled with the capability of collapsing the defense for easy twos within feet of the rim. At their worst, they are a collection of shooters that still consists of two of the best players in the league. The level at which their offense operates is truly elite, earning them the second-highest offensive rating in the league this season (112.2), ever so slightly behind the Golden State Warriors.
Tonight’s game and the rest of this series will come down to Minnesota’s ability to cover Houston’s abundance of three-point shooters while mitigating the overall offensive impact James Harden will undeniably have. It’s a very tall order, but if the Wolves are able to do that while controlling Clint Capela underneath the basket, they just might have the slightest shot at taking Houston by surprise.
If nothing else, this series will be fun just to watch playoff-mentality Jimmy Butler work to shut down James Harden. These are two of the best players at their respective ends of the floor, and you can bet that Butler won’t go down without a fight.
Regardless of how this game or the series itself turns out, Wolves fans at the very least can find some small satisfaction in the fact that Minnesota is finally moving in the right direction. This is the first step to becoming part of the conversation again.
Our blogging buddies are over at the terrific The Dream Shake. Be excellent.