Rockets push Timberwolves to brink with 50-point quarter in Game 4

Houston Rockets at Minnesota TimberwolvesThe Houston Rockets showed why they are the top seed in the Western Conference on Monday with one of the greatest quarters in NBA playoff history. The Rockets, led by James Harden and Chris Paul, scored 50 points in the third quarter of Game 4 against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday - the highest total in a quarter by any team since 1962 - and used it to take a 3-1 series lead with a chance to finish things at home on Wednesday.

 

Despite losing Games 1 and 2 in Houston, the Timberwolves appeared to be rejuvenated by their Game 3 victory, and they kept pace with the Rockets for the first two quarters of Game 4, trailing by one point at halftime. What came next was the second-greatest offensive quarter an NBA playoff quarter has ever seen, and one point shy of tying the 1962 Los Angeles Lakers for the record. Houston began the second half with an 11-0 scoring run fueled entirely by Harden and Paul, and the Rockets only got hotter from there, shooting 14-of-23 as a team in the third quarter, including an unfathomable 9-of-13 from 3-point range. Harden alone scored 22 points on 7-of-10 shooting - two more points than the entire Timberwolves team scored in the quarter.

 

Harden’s 22 points were the most ever by a Houston player in a playoff quarter, topping Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon, who had 18 in a quarter in 1995 when he helped the Rockets win a second consecutive NBA title. The current iteration of the Rockets are arguably more efficient at scoring than those championship teams, who did not make nearly as much use of 3-point shots as is seen in the modern NBA. When the 2017-18 version of Houston’s offensive scheme works to perfection like it did in the third quarter of Monday’s game, the Rockets look unstoppable.

 

Defense also played a role in Houston’s 119-100 win over Minnesota. The Timberwolves committed 16 turnovers as Harden and Paul combined for nine steals, and Clint Capela recorded four blocks to limit Minnesota’s chances. The Rockets took eight more shots than the Timberwolves, and 21 more 3-pointers, which proved to be the difference once again. Minnesota’s only chance of staving off elimination on the road in Game 5 is to somehow limit or match Houston’s production from the perimeter, which is something opponents have struggled to do against the Rockets all season. For Houston, advancing to the second round is just one more scoring outburst away.