Here are four stats from the game that stood out:
44 – James Harden’s points
The MVP frontrunner was cooking in the opener, scoring in every which way to burn the Timberwolves.
Can Minnesota play better defence again him? Yes. Jimmy Butler even said so afterward. But it’s not like Harden was getting a bunch of easy points. He only shot nine free throws – below his season average of 10.1 – and many of his makes were contested, especially the flurry of step-back 3s he rained down.
Harden may be the best offensive player in the league and sometimes he’s going to have his way, regardless of the defence. The Timberwolves will have to hope he’s not feeling it to this extent next game.
27.0% – Houston’s 3-point shooting percentage
Here’s some bad news for Minnesota: the Rockets may have just had their worst shooting game of the series… and it didn’t matter.
Aside from Harden, the rest of the Rockets shot a paltry 3-of-25 from long distance. That’s just not going to happen much going forward, if at all ever again.
Houston averaged 15.3 triples in the regular season, so there’s a good chance their shooting is going to improve in the next game. That’s a scary thought for the Timberwolves, who may have missed their best opportunity to steal one.
14.2% – Karl-Anthony Towns’ usage percentage
Tom Thibodeau on Karl-Anthony Towns: "He has to be more active." Specifically, Thibodeau says Towns needs to run the floor better.— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) April 16, 2018
Minnesota’s shot distribution was fairly balanced, with six players taking attempted at least nine field goals. Balance is good, but you also need your star players to be a bigger factor than what Towns was in Game 1.
The Timberwolves centre took just nine shots (making three) and was relegated to a bystander role in the offence, which has happened too often this season.
With Butler not looking like he’s 100 per cent, Towns has to be more of a focal point and Tom Thibodeau has to find ways to get him involved.
Strictly posting him isn’t the best strategy against the Rockets, who at times threw double teams his way, so the offence has to get a little more creative to create mismatches and put him in position to succeed.
-6 – Derrick Rose’s plus-minus
Speaking of usage percentage, the Timberwolves player with the highest mark in Game 1 was none other than Rose. That’s not ideal.
And yet, it’s not like he played poorly. Rose was fairly efficient in scoring 16 points on 7-of-14 shooting, while adding four assists in 24 minutes off the bench.
The problem is he was still a negative in plus-minus, which speaks to how little he helps on the other end of the floor. And in a series where Rose will have to guard the likes of Harden and Chris Paul, Minnesota will be in trouble if they have to rely on him this much.
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