MINNEAPOLIS – The Houston Rockets have made the opening game of the second half perfect. James Harden took the dribble handover from Chris Paul, who put a screen on Jimmy Butler and released his co-star to drive down the middle of the alley for a left flipper.
It was a perfect opportunity for Harden to become a little rhythm after a rough first half for the probable MVP. But the ball hit the rim one, two, three, four times before it fell, Harden's eleventh miss on his first fifteen field-goal attempts.
Man, that could be just another of those nights for the regular NBA season scoring leader. Yeah right.
That was one of the few things that went wrong for Harden and the Rockets in the third quarter of their 1
And it really was the first time in those playoffs that the Rockets won the best record The NBA had finished by the end of March was in a rhythm. They only needed 14 quarters.
"A quarter is getting hot and that's it," Harden said.
That was the game. That was almost certainly the series. The Rockets gave themselves a 3-1 lead before returning to Houston. And that's all the Rockets need to regain the pride of a 65-man team after beating each other in the first rounds of the first round.
Harden refused to lose the Rockets Game 1 as he pitched 44 points and eight assists for Paul's Night. Paul returned in Game 2 with a 27-point eight-to-ten recoil performance, which, combined with a dominant defensive performance, was more than enough to make up for Harden's 2-of-18 masonry.
Finally, a few days after the Timberwolves scored their first playoff win in 14 years, the co-superstars of the Rockets simultaneously caught fire in this series. As that happened, Harden and Paul got historically hot.
After a bad start James Harden finds his groove, which brings 22 points in the third quarter.
They combined for 37 points in the third, most in a quarter as teammates. Harden scored 22 in the quarter – or two more than the Timberwolves – the most in Rockets playoff history and most of each since Golden State Stephen Curry had 22 in a quarter against the San Antonio Spurs five years ago. Paul added 15 points in the quarter.
"They just saw their glory," Rocket's coach Mike D & # 39; Antoni said.
This brilliance we have seen often throughout the season when Harden and Paul were skeptical about whether two ball-dominant playmakers could co-exist, being silly. Perhaps on Monday night, when the Rockets clung to a one-point lead, knocking off just 38 percent from the floor by a few quarters, those doubters began banging their heads at halftime.
"Some of you may want to check out tweets at halftime," joked D & # 39; Antoni.
Mike D & # 39; Antoni ponders how the Rockets turn things around and jokingly tells reporters to reread their James Harden halftone tweets.
D & # 39; Antoni also fooled that the key was his half-time adjustments, but the reality is that the Rockets did what they always do. They spread the ground and put the ball in the hands of two of the NBA's best creators. The big difference was that the shots were falling – and so it came that Houston reached his score in just 12 minutes from the first half.
"A few looks I had in the first half I missed" I wanted to shoot the same shots, "said Harden, who scored 25 points with 36 points ahead of Paul." After the first game of the Half the coach did a game and I was aggressive. I only had that mentality. Not just for myself, but Chris had the same mentality and the entire team.
"We will shoot the 3-ball well, we will be aggressive, we will attack."
Harden, who missed all seven shots off the ground in the first quarter, did not hang his head when his light swimmer was missing to start the second half. He attacked again the next possession and got a finger throw to the fall.
If you blinked you might have missed the Rockets' 11-0 run to reach the halfway point, and Harden and Paul combined to score every point like this season, when Houston was 44-5, when both played.
For the rest of the quarter, Minnesota did not fare much better. The Rockets were 14 out of 23 off the ground, 9 out of 13 out of 3-point range, and 13 out of 13 off the line as they came in one point of the 1962 Los Angeles Lakers playoff record for the most points in a quarter.
"We can be this team," said the sixth man Eric Gordon, who had eight points in the quarter, including a 3 at Summer. "We just did not get into a flow throughout this series, so it was good to see that."
It's a terrifying sight for any team on the Rocket's path.