PREVIEW: Rockets vs. Timberwolves first round playoff matchup
By Michael Knight
The Rockets and Timberwolves begin the first round of the playoffs on Sunday night at 8 p.m. CT.
The playoffs are finally here, folks. After a long 82-game regular season, it is finally time for the Rockets (65-17) to prove that they deserved the top seed in the Western Conference.
They will do that by first facing off against a tough, young Timberwolves team. The Wolves finished the year with a solid 47-35 record. The 47 wins are more than your average 8th seeded team in the West.
The T-Wolves were well on their way to being a top-4 seed in the West until Jimmy Butler got injured. Due to that injury, they fell all the way to No. 8 and will have to play one of the best teams in the league, the Houston Rockets. With Butler back, though, Minnesota will be no joke.
Shall we compare the two teams before this series begins on Sunday? Let’s do it:
Let’s first look at some of the basic statistics. The Rockets were 2nd in points per game while the Timberwolves were 8th. Both teams did not have high assist numbers in the regular season, 21.5 a game for the Rockets and 22.7 a game for the Timberwolves. Houston averaged more rebounds a night with 43.5 compared to 42, but Minnesota had more offensive boards per game with 10.3 as opposed to 9.
As far as offensive and defensive rating goes, this is where things get interesting. The Rockets had the No. 1 offense and the No. 6 defense according to Basketball-Reference. The Timberwolves? No. 4 and No. 27, respectively. Houston will need to take advantage of the poor Minnesota defense.
The Rockets, of course, have two superstars in James Harden and Chris Paul. Along with near-stars Clint Capela and Eric Gordon, they form the backbone of this team.
The Timberwolves have some star power as well. Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns are both top-20 players in this league and KAT is still getting better. Those two and Andrew Wiggins are a scary trio for Minnesota.
The benches of the two teams are very much in favor of the Rockets. Houston is one of the deepest teams in the league and has players like Eric Gordon, Gerald Green, Joe Johnson, Ryan Anderson & Nene Hilario coming off the bench. Luc Mbah a Moute is injured right now, or he would be on that list, too.
The Timberwolves bench is not fantastic. They play their starters quite a few minutes and we may see that negatively affect them in the playoffs. Off their bench, they have players like Jamal Crawford, Tyus Jones, Derrick Rose, Gorgui Dieng & Nemanja Bjelica. To show you how much they hardly play, Jamal Crawford had the most minutes last night off the bench with 18.
The Rockets dominated the season series this year against the Timberwolves. In three of the games, the Rockets won by 18 points. In the other game, the Rockets won by 9. With or without Jimmy Butler, the Rockets have still shown that they are the better team.
My prediction for the series? I think that the Rockets will beat the Timberwolves in 5 games. They will go up 3-0, drop game 4, then win at home.
Let me know how you think the series will turn out!