April 21, 2018, 11:40 pm
For the first time since 2004, the Timberwolves hosted an NBA playoff game, and the fans let the team know how excited they were to have them back. The team responded with another gift, their first playoff win in the same span.
This win wasn’t an ordinary victory, either. This was a pounding, an unabashed blitz on the Houston Rockets leading to a 121-105 celebration. The Wolves struggled mightily in the first two games of this series to find any semblance of offense. It was two of their worst performances of the entire season in back-to-back games.
They didn’t have that problem tonight, though. They ripped the monkey off their back thanks to a 3-point bombardment and aggressive takes inside the paint. The Wolves shot like the Golden State Warriors, en route to a dominating performance.
It was a taste of the Rockets’ own medicine, but the Wolves were more efficient in the process. They made 15 3-pointers, as many as the Rockets did, but in just 27 attempts compared to 41 on Houston’s end.
Shooting like that was a welcome sight for a team that made just 13 (of 41!) in the first two games. The biggest relief in this game, though, was the arrival of Karl-Anthony Towns and Jimmy Butler.
The duo struggled mightily in the first two games of the series, combining for 18.5 points on 17.5 shots per game and never were seemingly effective on the offensive end of the floor. Each came out firing in this one, with Butler going for 28 points and KAT dropping 18.
Butler had a typical regular season line with seven rebounds, five assists, one steal and four 3-pointers to add to his 28 points. He shot 10-of-19 from the field and 4-of-6 from the line. There was a scary moment in the third quarter where Butler went down on his ankle awkwardly, and he hobbled over to the bench. The Wolves called a timeout and he returned to the game, showing minimal ill-effects. It could be worth noting going forward, though.
Towns, meanwhile, added 16 rebounds, three assists, one steal, two blocks and one 3-pointer to his line, shaking off the demons of Games 1 and 2 and coming out with energy and passion that wasn’t present.
KAT is back pic.twitter.com/olOfvK2tQx
— Kevin Brand (@KBranded) April 22, 2018
He was quite charismatic on the floor, playing into his element on the big stage. Towns is a bright lights kid and relishes in the spotlight. In the first two games he was humbled, but showed everyone why he’s still one of the best bigs in the NBA, coming off on of the most efficient seasons in NBA history.
He was poking the bear that is James Harden throughout the night, making it known that the Wolves have arrived and don’t intend to go anywhere.
KAT gave James Harden's airballed shots the Carmen Sandiego treatment twice, here's both in one video 👀 pic.twitter.com/rPy2UHf7Er
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) April 22, 2018
This energy was not there in Houston, and the Wolves welcomed it back with open arms.
The evening wasn’t solely about KAT and Butler, though. Andrew Wiggins continued his high level of play, but instead of being the salvaging factor in a tough loss, he was the willing recipient of many open looks. Wiggins scored 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting with five rebounds, five assists, one steal, one block and four 3-pointers. Two of his 3-pointers came off of Towns kick-outs when he was double-teamed in the post.
Pump fake, and a beauty pic.twitter.com/etCkBQPhWj
— Kevin Brand (@KBranded) April 22, 2018
Jeff Teague was a man possessed playing with a fire that was rarely seen in the regular season. Teague is normally a stoic figure on the court, never too high or low. Tonight he was fired up. It was apparent that this game meant a whole lot for the entire organization, the players and the fans.
Jeff Teague is hyped! Rarely see this type of emotion from him pic.twitter.com/KUd6hArgt8
— Kevin Brand (@KBranded) April 22, 2018
Teague finished with 23 points, eight assists, three rebounds, one steal and three 3-pointers on the night, shooting 9-of-14 from the field in the process. Teague has been a key piece for the Wolves against the Rockets all season. He struggled in Game 2 (like just about everyone else), but when he’s aggressive attacking off the dribble, while taking care of the ball, he’s their best bet against Chris Paul.
The biggest surprise of the night likely came in the form of Derrick Rose, who finished with 17 points off the bench, with two assists, two steals and a 3-pointer. He also shot 8-of-16 from the field. Love him or hate him, he undoubtedly was a major contributor, especially when the Wolves’ starters exited the floor.
Rose was at his best for the Wolves when he was moving without the ball by cutting in the lane, setting screens and attacking the rim, or running in transition. When Rose deferred playmaking to Teague or Butler, Rose was an excellent piece that allowed the Wolves to pull away. When Tom Thibodeau had Rose running the offense, things stalled noticeably.
That’s what we should come to expect when the Wolves run out Rose, and Jamal Crawford to an extent. At this point the team need to live with the bad to get the goods, but in a controlled way both guys can still be effective. Crawford is mostly tied to whether he’s hitting his jump shots, but at least Rose can make something happen at the rim.
Crawford was hitting in the second quarter, making 2-of-4, and Thibs ran with him. Come the second half Crawford was off, and Thibs shied away. Credit for Thibs who typically rolls far too long with his veterans when they are being utilized properly.
He stuck with Rose because he wasn’t forcing the issue (mostly), just fitting in with the offense and picking his spots wisely. That development is encouraging and it paid off for the Wolves tonight.
The win forced a Game 5 back in Houston, at least, and the Wolves are hoping they can make the Rockets sweat a little bit by sending the series back tied at 2-2. One thing is for certain, the Wolves have the attention of the Rockets.
April 24, 2019, 6:54 pmClint Capela - C - Houston Rockets
According to head coach Mike D'Antoni, Clint Capela (illness) is feeling much better ahead of Wednesday's matchup against the Jazz.
Clint Capela has been struggling ever since he came down with this virus. He seems to be close to 100% according to his head coach. If Capela can get close to his season averages of 16.6 points on 64.8% shooting while grabbing 12.7 rebounds and blocking 1.5 shots per game, then the Jazz will have an even tougher to task to take down the Rockets on Wednesday in order to force a Game 6 back in Utah.
Source: Tim MacMahon on Twitter
April 24, 2019, 3:24 pmJaMychal Green - F - Los Angeles Clippers
JaMychal Green will remain in the starting lineup in Game 5 on Wednesday.
Green logged 22 minutes in the same role in Game 4, though it's not surprising that the Clippers will stick with the same group considering Ivica Zubac's tough fit in this matchup and Montrezl Harrell's fit in his current role.
Source: Andrew Greif on Twitter
April 24, 2019, 2:11 pmNate Tibbets - Team - Trail Blazers
The Suns have been given permission to interview Blazers assistants Nate Tibbets and David Vanterpool for their vacant head coaching position.
The Cavs have already been connected to the duo from Portland, and Tibbets interviewed for the Hawks' gig last summer. The Suns reportedly fired Igor Kokoskov so they could make Philadelphia assistant Monty Williams their top target before the Lakers got too deep into talks, but Phoenix will be looking at multiple candidates. It's a nice roster to work with but we can't imagine anyone will be too eager to work with the team's ownership group.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter
April 24, 2019, 2:00 pmDraymond Green - F - Golden State Warriors
Draymond Green admitted that his right wrist has been hurt for "a while."
Green added that he got hit there in Game 4 and "it pissed it off" and said that he's going to play through any pain in the postseason. It's not like teams weren't sagging off Green on the perimeter already, but if his wrist continues to hamper him in any way we may see opponents get very aggressive in their defensive efforts on Golden State's other players. Green is going to have lots of open jumpers presented to him for the rest of the postseason.
Source: Anthony Slater on Twitter
April 24, 2019, 1:57 pmJarrett Allen - C - Brooklyn Nets
Jarrett Allen will work on extending his range to the 3-point line this summer.
Him and every other big man. Allen went 6-for-45 on 3-pointers this season, so he's got some work to do. He's a quality young player who can protect the rim, but Allen isn't quite strong enough to crash and bang with the league's true behemoths and not quite gifted enough offensively to be anything more than a threat on the roll. It's a great base from which to work, however, and it's good to know that Allen is going to be putting in the work to make himself more of a weapon as the Nets look to build on a nice campaign.
Source: Bryan Fonseca on Twitter
April 24, 2019, 1:55 pmMarcus Smart - G - Boston Celtics
On Wednesday Brad Stevens said that Marcus Smart (torn oblique) is "doing great."
That's nice, but it's not much of an update. Smart was able to do some light shooting and treadmill work yesterday but we're still not expecting to see him until the tail end of the second round at the earliest. His tenacity and perimeter defense will be missed dearly in Boston's matchup with the Bucks.
Source: Jay King on Twitter
April 24, 2019, 1:48 pmKyle Lowry - G - Toronto Raptors
Kyle Lowry suffered a dislocated finger on his right hand in the first half of Tuesday's Game 5 but was able to pop it back in and return to the game.
Lowry swiped at the ball and ended up hitting Evan Fournier's leg with his hand, which caused the injury The fact that he was able to return to the game, even in a blowout, bodes well for his status for the second round. It may affect his shooting to some degree but Lowry has been playing facilitator more often anyway, and we wouldn't expect his performance to suffer. After a scoreless Game 1, Lowry was all over the floor for the Raptors as they locked in and simply outclassed Orlando.
Source: The Athletic
April 24, 2019, 11:50 amJeff Hornacek - Team - Sacramento Kings
Sam Amick of the Athletic is reporting that former Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek had an interview with the Kings for the lead assistant coach job.
Sacramento has already hired Luke Walton to be their new coach but the news about the sexual assault allegations he faces might put his status in danger. Walton should be able to assemble his coaching staff once he is out of the woods but we should know more once the NBA concludes with their investigation of the matter.
Source: The Athletic
April 24, 2019, 11:11 amLuke Walton - Team - Sacramento Kings
Sam Amick of the Athletic is reporting that Luke Walton still has the Kings’ support, despite the sexual assault allegations the newly-hired coach is facing.
The Kings are working with the NBA to investigate allegations made against Walton by his former colleague at Time Warner Cable, Kelli Tennant. The report adds that the two sides are moving forward with their working relationship and there doesn’t appear to be any momentum toward firing Walton, who was hired earlier this month just three days after he parted ways with the Lakers. The Kings confirmed that they were not aware of the accusations until TMZ reported the news and that they will wait for the facts before making a decision on Walton’s future. The investigation has been delayed because all parties haven’t been able to access Tennant’s lawsuit so more information should merge soon.
Source: The Athletic
April 24, 2019, 10:49 amJaren Jackson Jr. - F/C - Memphis Grizzlies
Jaren Jackson Jr. said that he wants to improve his "motor," his ball-handling skills and his shooting mechanics entering year two and he hopes to work with Kevin Garnett over the coming months.
Jackson and Garnett spent time together last summer and again in February when Garnett visited Memphis to feature Jackson’s game for his segment on TNT. "He has a work ethic that is a throwback that I'm very appreciative of," Garnett said in the segment. "I love working with him. He is the future. I look forward to him becoming the leader of Memphis." The rookie had an impressive season before getting shut down due to a bruised thigh, averaging 13.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.4 blocks, 0.9 steals and 0.9 triples per contest. He has tremendous upside and owners in dynasty leagues should feel great about him.
Source: Memphis Commercial Appeal