The NBA Playoffs have finally arrived. Sixteen teams began their second seasons with squeaky clean slates. The 82-game season determined these opening round positions and match ups.
The Houston Rockets (65-17) enter the playoffs with the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and home court advantage throughout. Last season they were 55-27, good for the No. 3 seed. They fell in the second round to San Antonio Spurs in six games.
Their opening round opponent is the Minnesota Timberwolves, who clinched the No. 8 seed with a victory over the Denver Nuggets in the regular season finale.
As is often the case in No. 1 vs No. 8 seed pairings, the two franchises are in two different phases when it comes to contending. Minnesota is back in the playoffs for the first time since 2005, Houston has championship aspirations.
Tom Thibodeau and Jimmy Butler have lots of playoff experience for the Timberwolves, but Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins will be getting their first dose of the post season in game one of this series.
Houston had made no bones about their obsession to dethrone the defending champion Golden State Warriors. They need to come out and make a statement and make quick work of the Timberwolves. They swept the season series four games to none and won three of the four games by 18 points.
Minnesota is well aware of this and is no doubt looking to reverse these trends. Some of the games in this series will no doubt be closer than the ones in the regular season. When things are tight there is a trend that Houston has no doubt seen from the Timberwolves.
Karl-Anthony Towns' last shot was with 6:17 left.
— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) April 12, 2018
This was the case in the then biggest game of Karl-Anthony Towns’ pro career. They were battling with the Nuggets to make the playoffs and KAT wasn’t getting the rock down the stretch. Hopefully this trend continues in the playoffs as well.
James Harden and Chris Paul need to set the tone and make sure this series doesn’t linger. I think Houston wraps it up in five games.