04/21 21:26 CDT Butler, Towns lead T-wolves past Rockets 121-105 in Game 3
Butler, Towns lead T-wolves past Rockets 121-105 in Game 3
By DAVE CAMPBELL
AP Sports Writer
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) --- Jimmy Butler hit four 3-pointers among his 28 points and
Karl-Anthony Towns snapped back from a bad start to the series with 18 points
and 16 rebounds, leading the Minnesota Timberwolves past the Houston Rockets
121-105 in Game 3 on Saturday night for their first postseason victory in 14
Jeff Teague scored 23 points and Andrew Wiggins pitched in 20 points with
another four 3-pointers, helping the Timberwolves match the fire-away Rockets
from behind the arc and cruise down the stretch behind a 50 percent shooting
Derrick Rose added 17 points off the bench for the Wolves, who will try to even
the series with a win in Game 4 on Monday night.
James Harden led the way with 29 points, but Chris Paul fouled out with 17
points and the Rockets went just 15 for 41 from 3-point range.
The Rockets made four 3-pointers on their last seven possessions of the first
half to turn an 11-point deficit to just one in less than 3 minutes up until
the break. Butler twisted his left ankle during that stretch, causing some
brief anxiety in the arena. He didn't require, or accept, any medical attention
and returned from the intermission without any hint that he was hurt.
Taj Gibson hounded Harden and forced an airballed 3-pointer, prompting the apex
of the noise throughout the night with the Wolves ahead 77-70. Towns powered
his way past Ryan Anderson for a layup and a three-point play with 1:57 left in
the third quarter, pushing the lead to 10 points, and he flexed his biceps to
the crowd after the whistle as he walked like King Kong to the corner of the
court in celebration.
The Wolves closed that period on a 26-14 run and produced spurts of 15-3 and
11-2 in the fourth quarter to let loose as their plan to push a faster pace
played out perfectly against a Rockets team that lost some energy in the venue
Harden, who had 44 points in Game 1 but lost his rainbow jumper in Game 2 and
finished only 2 for 18 from the floor for 12 points, wasn't a whole lot sharper
in Game 3. He went 9 for 21, including 3 for 8 from 3-point range.
Instead, a Wolves team that finished last in the NBA in 3-pointers made during
the regular season, posted the second-highest total of 2017-18 while launching
their way to a 15-for-27 performance.
For the first time since May 29, 2004, the fifth game of the Western Conference
finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, the NBA playoffs descended on downtown
Minneapolis. The shine of this long-awaited return to relevance by the
29-year-old franchise was dulled a bit by the team's fade down the stretch to
finish eighth in the conference and draw the most daunting matchup available
against a Rockets team that won all four regular season games by an average of
16 points and took the first two games of this series in Houston.
The occasion was still special, though, with the memory of late coach and
executive Flip Saunders not far from the minds of the Target Center regulars.
The game sold out, naturally, and the crowd matched the moment to make the
arena louder than it had been all season.
After totaling only 13 points over the first two games and being challenged to
be more aggressive by everyone from TNT analyst Charles Barkley to Timberwolves
coach Tom Thibodeau, Towns was constantly double-teamed by the switch-heavy
Rockets and didn't attempt a shot in the first quarter. The 7-footer got his
energy going soon after that, though, with an emphatic dunk on Chris Capela
after peeling away from the post-up to snag a high pass from Teague.
Rose, one of three former Chicago Bulls stalwarts under Thibodeau with Butler
and Gibson who were brought in to bring the edge and experience the
cornerstones Towns and Wiggins are lacking, made his presence obvious the
entire time he was in the game.
He hit a step-back jumper to give the Wolves a 46-36 lead that was their
largest of the series to that point, and he had 10 points in nine minutes
Rockets: Anderson returned to action for the first time in seven games due to a
sprained left ankle and finished with 12 points. The Rockets were 18-1 during
the regular season when he made at least three 3-point shots. ... During the
regular season, Houston won 11 games in which it trailed by double digits,
including at Minnesota on Feb. 13 when the deficit reached 13 points in the
third quarter of a 126-108 victory.
Timberwolves: Minnesota had 29 assists on 45 made field goals, with only seven
turnovers. ... Rose has 42 points in the series on 19-for-39 shooting in 62
Game 4 on Monday night.
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