The Minnesota Timberwolves looked dead in the water after two games of their first-round playoff series against the Houston Rockets. The top-seeded Rockets took both games, including a blowout victory in Game 2.
However, Minnesota submitted a fantastic performance in Game 3 at home, winning 121-105 behind an offense that ran in high gear. Also winning Game 4 at home today should prove to be a challenge, though (8 p.m. ET Monday on TNT).
Houston’s 16-point loss was just the second time the team had lost by 15 points or more since December. The Rockets’ defense was not very engaged and their offense had to work hard in the half court because it wasn’t getting good transition opportunities.
Was Game 3 a sign of things to come in Game 4 or just a small blip on the radar for the Rockets? We will discuss the contest’s storylines and then make some Houston Rockets vs Minnesota Timberwolves predictions and betting picks for this preview.
Will Timberwolves Continue to Make the Extra Pass?
The Timberwolves didn’t really establish themselves as a great example of team basketball on the offensive end during the regular season. Just 55.4 percent of their field goals were assisted, which ranked among the lowest marks in the NBA. They got a lot of points on post-ups from Karl-Anthony Towns and isolations from Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins, not on crisp ball movement leading to open shots.
In the first two games of this series, that trend continued. Minnesota assisted on 37 of its 66 field goals, which equates to 56.1 percent. However, Game 3 was a stylistic shift for them. They assisted on 29 of 45 field goals, which is a much higher 64.4 percent.
Minnesota becomes much harder to defend when they drive and kick and make quicker decisions with the ball. The Wolves are an athletic team and thrive off of attacking the closeouts that the ball movement forces from the opposition.
Can Houston Up Pace of Game?
The average number of possessions per game in this series is 94.8. That is a bit lower than the Timberwolves’ regular season average of 96 and a considerable amount lower than Houston’s regular season average of 97.6.
The Rockets are capable of winning games that are slow, but they do like their share of transition opportunities. In Game 3, Minnesota committed just seven turnovers and allowed only two fast break points to Houston. Keep in mind that the Rockets averaged 11.4 fast break points per game in the regular season, so that was a big weakness for them in Game 3.
Houston needs to play a bit more aggressively on defense to generate Minnesota turnovers and then force the issue in transition more often to get easy buckets and draw fouls.
What’s Up With Minnesota’s Outside Shooting?
The Timberwolves were a very good offensive team all year. However, they did it on low volume and mediocre accuracy from three-point range. The team took a lot of shots in the paint and from the mid-range areas.
Like their assist trends, Minnesota’s unimpressive three-point shooting continued in the first two games of this series. The team was 13-of-41 from downtown in those two contests combined. Then, in Game 3, the Wolves exploded for a 15-of-27 performance.
The Game 3 number for Minnesota seems like a bit of a fluke, but the team did create a lot of open looks that even mediocre three-point shooting teams should be able to convert on. Can the Timberwolves keep up their hot shooting?
Our Preview’s Houston Rockets at Minnesota Timberwolves Game 4 Betting Picks & Predictions
The Rockets are too strong to let the Game 3 result get to them. The Wolves won’t continue to light it up from downtown, and Houston will make more of a conscious effort to get points on the break.
These are our Houston Rockets vs Minnesota Timberwolves predictions in our bid to better the best of the sportsbooks:
- You will find Houston as a 5.5-point favorite with all betting outlets. Before the series, I picked Houston in five games, and I firmly believe that Minnesota will not win another game in this matchup. Bet on the Rockets -5.5pts @ best odds of -110 with Intertops, 5Dimes or Bookmaker.
- Houston will realize that it needs to pick up the pace and do so. Minnesota probably won’t hit 15 threes again. Those factors should balance out and produce a score total similar to Game 3’s 226 points. Place your bet on the over 219 @ -110 with Bovada, 5Dimes, Intertops or Bookmaker.