Timberwolves miss an opportunity in Game 1 loss to Houston

James Harden

When the Timberwolves took an 86-85 lead with 6:49 left in the fourth, Harden scored 11-straight points with a series of dizzying step-back threes that the Timberwolves could do nothing to stop. But the Timberwolves got going after that and had tied it up by late in the first quarter.

Minnesota is a team on the rise in the West - Karl-Anthony Towns is a stud. Not only are they one of only two teams to make over 1,000 threes this season but they have made nearly twice as many threes per game as the Timberwolves have.

Houston kept All-Star big man Towns in check, limiting him to just eight points after he'd averaged 21.3 in leading the Wolves to their first playoff appearance since 2004.

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.

The Rockets were dominant in the regular season and won a franchise-high 65 games to finish top of the pile in the Western Conference. He got off to a great start, and it continued all game long, as he finished with 27 points and 10 rebounds.

Jeff Teague ended Minnesota's scoring drought with two free throws after the timeout and added a 3-point play after a basket by Harden. The Minnesota Timberwolves waited 13 years to make the playoffs while the Houston Rockets spent the best part of the last two months of the regular season waiting for the playoffs.

Offensive efficiency will be the mantra for the Timberwolves as they look to upset the Rockets. The Minnesota Timberwolves are averaging 109.5 points on 47.6 percent shooting and allowing 107.3 points on 47.5 percent shooting. Their "reward" was a date with the top-seeded Rockets.

Apart from being at their best offensively, they will have to devise a plan to hold down Harden, who is key for the Rockets' offense. Eric Gordon (ankle) is probable.

Houston had Minnesota's number in the regular season, sweeping all four meetings.

This is a common occurrence too with many teams around the National Basketball Association living with their bigs switching on guards in an attempt to deal with the vast number of pick-and-rolls that make up most offenses.

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