HOUSTON - So much for not showing up in the playoffs!
After being dogged for years about not being able to replicate his dominant regular season form in the postseason, Rockets guard James Harden carried Houston to a gritty Game 1 win over Minnesota on Sunday, 104-101, with a game-high 44 points.
Harden’s MVP-caliber performance made up for a lackluster night from much of his supporting cast. Chris Paul, Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza, and P.J. Tucker all combined for just 27 points while the Rockets as a team went just 10-for-37 from deep – well below their league-leading 15.3 made threes per game during the regular season.
1. Knock down shots
Heading into Game 2 on Wednesday, the easiest fix for Houston is to just knock down shots – especially from deep.
Of the Rockets 10 made threes in Game 1, seven came from James Harden. That kind of off-night shooting is certainly an aberration for a team that typically connects on better than 36 percent of its three-point attempts.
For the glass-half-full crowd, the fact that Houston shot so poorly yet still won is encouraging. Championship teams find ways to grind out wins.
2. Point guard play improvement
Another key to Game 2 for the Rockets will be improved point guard play.
Chris Paul struggled in his first playoff game in a Rockets uniform, scoring just 14 points on 5-for-14 shooting (including 1-6 from deep), while also turning it over six times. He also committed a few key turnovers late in Game 1 that allowed the Timberwolves to keep weathering Harden’s heroics.
If CP3 can play closer to his future Hall-of-Fame form, the Rockets’ vaunted offense – which averaged 123 points per game versus Minnesota in the regular season – can start clicking again.
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