April 25, 2018, 6:50 pm
Their backs are against the proverbial wall, but at this point it feels more like the Wolves are out to salvage the series and make life for the Rockets as difficult as possible.
The Wolves were blitzed in the third quarter on Game 4, and in that 12 minute stretch the series took a tonal shift. Minnesota was in a one-point game on their home floor in a 2-1 series, and after the rough quarter lost a blowout and head back to Houston down 3-1.
There weren’t huge expectations for Minnesota in this series, but through three and a half games, the Wolves certainly had a punchers’ chance. Their offense has mostly been an utter mess, and yet three games were there for the taking. In the pivotal Game 4, the Rockets overcame the technical issues delaying their launch and blasted off in a historical third quarter where they scored 50 points, second most ever in a NBA playoff game.
An explosion of that magnitude, while historically rare, felt inevitable at some point in this series. The Rockets have not been shy about their 3-point shooting in this series, taking 43.3 attempts from beyond the arc in the series (in line with their 42.3 attempts in the regular season) while making them at a 32.9 percent clip. At some point they were going to break out of their slump.
The fact that it didn’t happen until the second half of Game 4 was a moderate surprise and certainly allowed the Wolves to hang around all series long. Riding the wave all the way back to Houston and their home floor is a likely possibility, which means the Wolves have to bust out of their slump as well.
After an odd beginning to this series there have been glimpses of what everyone expected peppered into Games 3 and 4, which was elite offensive firepower on both sides, and the stars showing out. Neither side has been able to put it together simultaneously just yet, leading to multiple blowouts and one-sided games.
From the Wolves’ perspective, they’re out to at least pull their weight. It’s sink or swing season and the Wolves are on their final breathe.
What kind of desperation adjustments Tom Thibodeau makes will be intriguing to watch. They say moments like this are where the true self reveals itself. Given the huge odds stacked against the Wolves winning this series, it might be advantageous to think towards the future and get the young players as much exposure as possible.
On the other hand, Thibs could rely on his former Bulls more than ever. The players that left it all out on the line back in Chicago for him may play a feature role in his last ditch effort to get this series back to Minnesota. That would include Derrick Rose, who’s actually been a prominent player in this series already and to his credit has stepped up huge for the bench.
Or perhaps the Wolves come out status quo and try to build on the things they did well early in the series, such as limiting Harden from getting into the paint and get him going backwards (something they utterly failed at late in Game 4), and running the offense through Towns at the high-post.
Using Towns in the high-post is not something the Wolves do often, but Towns is a good fit there, with a chance to be fantastic. On the surface his shooting touch and size over the defense gives him an advantage in the passing lanes, but he’s also mobile enough to take it off the dribble and attack. He needs to improve both of these areas in his offense in the summer, but they are solid as of now.
The main factor in this series that can help him, and the Wolves, is it makes it tougher to double team him in the high-post. If Towns gets switched onto a guard in the high-post, there’s more space to pass out of a double, and a couple of quick passes can lead to a score.
It’s also been effective with Rose cutting into the lane. The Wolves’ offense is typically very stationary without much cutting or back screens, which doesn’t play into a high-post offense very well. Rose has added that element to the offense (accidentally?) and given Towns’ a moving target on a couple of occasions.
Rose has been at his best when he’s in the lane and being a part of the offense instead of trying to create himself, and in this series he’s excelled in that regard, likely because the Wolves have lacked that all season long (Wiggins can be that guy, but is typically flared out to a corner).
It will be interesting to see how the Wolves respond to the shell-shocking second half of Game 4 with everything now on the line. The Wolves certainly have shown they have the talent to hang with the big boys, but perhaps are still a year away from joining them.
Jeff Teague – PG
Jimmy Butler – SG
Andrew Wiggins – SF
Taj Gibson – PF
Karl-Anthony Towns – C
Chris Paul – PG
James Harden – SG
Trevor Ariza – SF
P.J. Tucker – PF
Clint Capela – C
Tyus Jones (knee) – QUESTIONABLE
Justin Patton (foot) – OUT
Luc Mbah a Moute (shoulder) – OUT
Where: Toyota Center, Houston, TX
When: 8:30 pm CT
How: Fox Sports North and TNT
April 25, 2019, 11:00 pmJakob Poeltl - C - San Antonio Spurs
Jakob Poeltl shot 4-for-6 from the field for eight points with nine boards, two assists and one block in 28 minutes for a 120-103 win over the Nuggets in Game 6 on Thursday.
Poeltl was not able to shut down Nikola Jokic (43 points) but it didn't matter, as the Spurs shot 57.1 percent from the field to blow out the Nuggets. The Spurs will head to Denver for a winner-take-all affair in Game 7 on Saturday.
April 25, 2019, 10:54 pmGary Harris - G - Denver Nuggets
Gary Harris scored 14 points in Game 6 against the Spurs on Thursday night as the Nuggets fell 120-103.
Harris scored a few points in this one but didn't do a whole lot else. The Nuggets will probably need him to have more of a visible imprint on the game to make major noise.
April 25, 2019, 10:53 pmDerrick White - G - San Antonio Spurs
Derrick White shot 4-for-7 from the floor for 13 points with one rebound, two assists, two blocks and two 3-pointers in 27 minutes against the Nuggets on Thursday.
White wasn't particularly effective on the stat sheet in Game 6, but his grit and solid defense helped the Spurs secure a win on their home floor. He limited his turnovers to just one in this game. White will need to stay efficient in a decisive Game 7 on Saturday in Denver.
April 25, 2019, 10:49 pmPaul Millsap - F - Denver Nuggets
Paul Millsap was almost a non-factor on Thursday night scoring just 12 points and adding four boards in heavy minutes.
Millsap has to be better for this team to make any major noise deep in the playoffs. He just hasn't been back to his normal self for long stretches this year, so here's to hoping he can find form.
April 25, 2019, 10:49 pmRudy Gay - F - San Antonio Spurs
Rudy Gay shot 7-for-11 for 19 points with four boards, two assists, two blocks and three 3-pointers in 28 minutes against the Nuggets on Thursday.
After being a non-factor for much of the series, Gay played extra efficient as a savvy veteran on Thursday night. He led the bench in scoring and helped set the tone to force a Game 7. Gay will need another game like this if the Spurs want any chance of surviving in Denver.
April 25, 2019, 10:43 pmDeMar DeRozan - G - San Antonio Spurs
DeMar DeRozan shot 12-for-16 from the field for 25 points with seven assists and seven boards in 36 minutes to force a Game 7 against the Nuggets on Thursday.
DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge (26 points and 10 rebounds) took it to the Nuggets for their final home game of the opening round. For a team not making much noise in the regular season, all eyes will be on the Spurs and Nuggets Game 7 on Saturday. Never count out Pop and the Spurs.
April 25, 2019, 10:42 pmJamal Murray - G - Denver Nuggets
Jamal Murray scored just 16 points (7-of-19 from the floor) on Thursday in the Game 6 loss to the Spurs.
Murray was quiet in this one as the Nuggets tried to close it out. He did manage six assists but Nikola Jokic is going to need some help from his supporting cast to cement a date with Portland.
April 25, 2019, 10:37 pmNikola Jokic - C - Denver Nuggets
Nikola Jokic scored a career-high 43 points and approached a triple-double with 12 rebounds and nine assists in Thursday's Game 6 loss.
It was a waste of a great performance from Jokic as the Nuggets couldn't close out the Spurs in Game 6. Home cookin' might be just what the doctor ordered.
April 25, 2019, 10:34 pmLaMarcus Aldridge - F - San Antonio Spurs
LaMarcus Aldridge shot 10-for-18 from the field for 26 points with 10 boards, five assists, one block and one 3-pointer in 37 minutes to avoid elimination against the Nuggets on Thursday.
Aldridge was terrific all night, using home court advantage to play with energy. He took matters into his own hands, forcing a Game 7 on Saturday in Denver. Expect Aldridge to be giving his best effort on a winner-take-all affair.
April 25, 2019, 5:58 pmJeff Hornacek - Team - New York Knicks
The Kings have interviewed Jeff Hornacek for an assistant coach position.
The Kings have already hired their head coach, Luke Walton. However, with Walton's status up in the air with the recent allegations made against him, the Kings would do well to hire an assistant with head coaching experience. Hornacek last coached for the Knicks before being fired at the end of the 2017-2018 season. His overall record as head coach for the Knicks and the Suns is 161-216.
Source: James Ham on Twitter