Here are three takeaways from a jam-packed Game 1.
For their effort, which included surviving a lengthy span of the stretch run without All-Start guard Jimmy Butler, the Timberwolves earned a matchup against the top-seeded and heavily favored Houston Rockets, with their Western Conference first-round series set to commence Sunday at Toyota Center. He dislocated his shoulder in the second-to-last game of the regular season.
Houston continued to play great down the final stretch of the regular season despite not having much to gain, finishing seven games ahead of the National Basketball Association champion Golden State Warriors for the best record in the West. He was the heart and soul of the Wolves this season.
Coupled with the first rounder the Wolves acquired from the Jazz in the Ricky Rubio trade last summer, some fans preferred to miss the postseason to have both picks.
Dating back to 2014, Houston has gone 14-1 straight up in its past 15 meetings with Minnesota and covered the spread in all four games between the teams this season, according to the OddsShark NBA Database. He also had four assists and a pair of rebounds. He still averaged 21.3 points on 54.5% shooting and 12.3 rebounds and improved his 3-point shooting to an incredible 42.1%. They need Clint Capella to dominate the paint so their shots on the outside come more often, and the ability for second chance points goes up. Minnesota gets another chance on Wednesday, and Rose will be right there with them. The Houston Rockets are averaging 112.4 points on 46 percent shooting and allowing 103.9 points on 46.2 percent shooting.
Harden is enjoying another monster season to the tune of 30.4 points, 8.8 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game through 72 appearances. We'll have to see what kind of momentum the Rockets can build up in this series to better answer that question. That combination easily downs what the Timberwolves bring to the table: throw in the experience factor along with home court and Houston takes Game 1 with ease.
Houston finished the season with the best record while Cleveland struggled in the Eastern Conference. X-rays came back negative, but it will be something to monitor going forward. If you're looking for a player to be this series' Mario Ellie, you have options. The five man group of Gibson, Butler, Teague, Wiggins and Towns played 45 more minutes than any other group in the league and that's even with Butler missing almost six weeks.