Indianapolis Star
National Basketball Association
Preview
Houston at Minnesota
When: 7:30 PM ET, Saturday, April 21, 2018
Where: Target Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Houston Rockets guard James Harden is likely to take home his first NBA MVP trophy this season and is the best player on the team with the best record in the league, but he is not the whole team. The Rockets will take any offense they can get from Harden when they try to push their lead in the best-of-seven first-round series to 3-0 when they visit the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday.

Harden went 2-of-18 from the floor in Game 2 but Houston still managed to post a 102-82 win as the NBA's leading scorer in the regular season (30.4) turned it up on the defensive end. "I'm more happy than anybody right now, believe it or not, just because I'm not really worried about my shot," Harden told reporters. "I had those same shots in Game 1, and they went in. In Game 3, I'll shoot those same shots. ... I just tried to make an impact on the game in other ways, not just offensively. Happy we got the win." Minnesota is struggling to get All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns involved in the offense, and the center totaled 13 points on 5-of-18 shooting in the first two games after averaging 21.3 points during the regular season. "You want to win badly but you dwell too much on the past, you forget that you've got to take care of the present," Towns told reporters. "You've got to move on. We came in, we had a great practice, great focus, great concentration. I think we're ready to go tomorrow."

TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, AT&T SportsNet Southwest (Houston), FS North (Minnesota)

ABOUT THE ROCKETS: Houston's supporting cast stepped up to help Harden on Wednesday, with Houston native Gerald Green coming off the bench for 21 points and Trevor Ariza adding 15. "I know how hard they work," Harden told reporters of his teammates. "It might not go good all the time just because me and Chris (Paul) dominate the ball a lot. ... When I have bad shooting nights and they back me up, that's what it's about. I'm proud of those guys and they continue to work. They continue to focus on the right things to do and great things always happen when you have that mindset." Paul added 27 points and eight assists in Game 2.

ABOUT THE TIMBERWOLVES: Minnesota remains confident despite being in an 0-2 hole and is excited to play the franchise's first home playoff game since Game 5 of the Western Conference finals in 2004. "It feels good," Timberwolves swingman Andrew Wiggins told reporters after Friday's practice. "Houston took care of business up there and now we’ve got to do the same up here. I know the fans will be excited, the atmosphere will be crazy and the whole team, we're confident. We're ready." Wiggins led Minnesota's starters and was one of only three players on the team to score in double figures with 13 points in Game 2.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. The Rockets are shooting 29.2 percent from 3-point range in the series.

2. Minnesota SF Nemanja Bjelica scored a team-high 16 points in Wednesday's Game 2 after going scoreless in Game 1.

3. Houston SG Eric Gordon is 6-of-23 from the floor in the series, including 3-of-17 from 3-point range.

PREDICTION: Rockets 106, Timberwolves 104
Stats and Records
Team Comparison
  W/L Strk Home Away Day Night Div Conf
Houston 67-17 W2 36-7 31-10 1-1 66-16 12-4 43-11
Minnesota 47-37 L2 30-11 17-26 3-0 44-37 10-6 34-20
Last Meeting
Houston Minnesota
Date Away Home Pts Reb FG% Pts Reb FG%
4/18/18 MIN 82 HOU 102 102 54 36.5 82 52 38.8
Player Stats
Previous Matchup
Points Player Total FG% FTM
Houston C. Paul 27 55.6 4
Minnesota N. Bjelica 16 55.6 4
Rebounds Player Total Off Def
Houston C. Capela 16 4 12
Minnesota K. Towns 10 2 8
Assists Player  
Houston C. Paul 8
Minnesota T. Jones 3
Season
Points Player Total FG% FTM
Houston J. Harden 2331 44.4 661
Minnesota K. Towns 1803 53.8 357
Rebounds Player Total Off Def
Houston C. Capela 865 259 606
Minnesota K. Towns 1051 247 804
Assists Player  
Houston J. Harden 676
Minnesota J. Teague 515
Quickchart Matchup
Houston Houston Off vs  Minnesota Minnesota Defense
Houston Off vs Minnesota - Points For 112.1 Points For
Houston Off vs Minnesota - Points Against 107.2 Points Against
Houston - FG% 45.8 FG%
Minnesota - FG% 47.4 FG%
Houston - Reb 43.5 Reb
Minnesota - Reb 41.9 Reb
Minnesota Minnesota Off vs  Houston Houston Defense
Minnesota Off vs Houston - Points For 109.1 Points For
Minnesota Off vs Houston - Points Against 103.6 Points Against
Minnesota - FG% 47.5 FG%
Houston - FG% 46.1 FG%
Minnesota - Reb 42.1 Reb
Houston - Reb 42.2 Reb