Ugly Delicious James Harden Powers Houston in a Grisly Game 1 Win
I'd heard Tom Thibodeau's voice on TV before, but like the Grand Canyon, it's so much more majestic in person. In his pregame press conference, Thibs held forth about ' I don't remember, actually, I was so immersed in the sound. Sonorous, profoundly deep, rich, but also rough, grinding, and disconcertingly humid. Like an old Chevy V8 full of snot. Grotesque, but also oddly beautiful.
That sound bounced around Houston’s Toyota Center as the Timberwolves gave the Rockets everything they could handle but could never deliver the coup de grâce. Houston took Game 1 of their first-round series, 104-101.
The Timberwolves’ effort was also ugly and grinding at times. Andrew Wiggins shot high volume at a low percentage. Karl-Anthony Towns got his shot blocked hideously by Clint Capela at one end and let the 23-year-old Swiss center go for 20 points and 10 rebounds in the first half. Capela had his way with Towns, operating as if he were James Harden’s direwolf, looking like the best roll man since the guy who founded King’s Hawaiian. Taj Gibson was frequently switched onto Harden or Chris Paul on the perimeter and isolated. The Rockets went up 15-4 in the first five minutes to “M-V-P!” chants for Harden, and at no point after that in the first half did it feel like they led by less than 20.
But there the Wolves were, leading five minutes and change into the fourth. Then, after submitting the lead, they snuck back to a three-point deficit with possession of the ball and 8.7 seconds to go. They lingered like a bad smell. Gibson mostly stayed in front of Harden and Paul. And though Harden scored on Derrick Rose like he wasn’t there, Rose scored 16 points, his most since joining the Wolves in March. The Rockets, a team built around its prolific shooting, also shot poorly—they missed seven free throws and 27 of their 3-pointers. Some of that was the result of tough defense, but sometimes they got the shots they wanted and just missed.....
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