There aren’t moral victories in the playoffs.
That’s true and fine, but if you’re a Minnesota Timberwolves fan right now, you’ve got to be feeling pretty good.
Yes, your team fell 104-101 after Jimmy Butler missed a shot in the last few seconds. But for the Wolves, who haven’t made the playoffs since 2003-04, this confirms that they have a chance in this series. The “eight seed vs. a one seed” narrative can be thrown out.
Minnesota outscored Houston 54-50 in the second half. And to lose by just three when James Harden poured in 44 points is promising. Harden hit a few step-back threes and you simply can’t defend that.
Here are a few observations from the game:
- The Wolves got just 21 combined points from Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns. Both struggled to find any sort of rhythm offensively. This is disappointing from a Wolves perspective, but also promising considering they lost by just three and these are two of the most consistent players on the team. Andrew Wiggins looked cool and calm, finishing with 18 points and six rebounds. Jeff Teague had a near triple-double of 15 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
- Minnesota’s bench was impressive. Derrick Rose scored 16 points while Jamal Crawford added 15 points. These are two players with playoff experience so this was good to see. Rose turned back the clock and proved that while he’s gone through his fair share of injuries, he’s still got it. And for Crawford, he’s still a guy who can get hot and hit shots that don’t seem possible. Crawford shot 3-for-7 from deep.
- Yes, Harden had 44 points and shot 7-for-12 from the 3-point line, but defensively, this was a pretty solid performance form the Wolves. The only other players to hit double digits were Clint Capela and Chris Paul. Paul, who doesn’t have a great track record in the playoffs, shot just 5-for-14 from the field and 1-for-6 from deep. Houston shot just 27 percent from the 3-point line.
We’ll have more coming from Game 1, but for the Wolves, there’s plenty to look forward to in this series.