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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

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