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Series Ends In One Quarter

All because of James Harden.

April 24, 2018 - 1:32 pm
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After dropping the first two games in Houston, Minnesota came back home over the weekend and they showed up big in Game 3. First playoff win in 14 years for the Timberwolves. Suddenly, it’s a 2-1 series and you’re thinking win Game 4 and suddenly we’ve got a series. 

And that thought was alive and well last night. Especially in the first half. Especially when James Harden was not playing like James Harden and a guy named Derrick Rose was playing like THE Derrick Rose. Harden started 0 for 7 and Rose had 11 points in the first half and was trending on twitter. Usually, when Derrick Rose is trending on twitter, it’s because he was released. Or shredded his knee. Or  was traded, or talking about future board meetings, but last night, it was because he had a time machine. 

Thanks to Rose and Harden, Minnesota was only down 50-49 at the half. And when Houston started the third quarter with a well-executed play to get Harden a look and his shot bounced four times on the rim before falling out, it seemed like it wasn’t Harden’s night…maybe not even his series. And the he and they are chokers in the postseason narrative was going to come back punch Harden and Paul and D'Antoni in the face. That it wasn’t their series. Again. And that maybe it was Minnesota’s.  

You couldn’t help but think that. Especially since it was a one point game at halftime. I could see how. You’d see it that way. And you couldn’t have been more wrong. Because an avalanche was coming and it was coming fast. James Harden. Chris Paul. James Harden. Chris Paul. James Harden. James Harden. James Harden.

That’s a list of the Rockets scorers in the first 4 ½ minutes of the third quarter and by that point, a 1-point halftime lead was now 14. Game over. Series over. But James Harden wasn’t over. He just kept on killing the T-Wolves. 

After not scoring on the first possession of the third quarter, Houston scored on their next 11. And Harden had 17 of the 20 points. 

If this had been a boxing match, the ref would’ve stopped the fight. Minnesota players were dazed and staggering around on defense, unable to defend themselves and having now idea where Harden’s next shot was going to come from. I’m not even sure if James Harden knew where James Harden’s next shot was going to come from, but he knew it was going in. 

Jimmy Butler said afterwards: "We came out lackadaisical on both ends of the floor. We didn't take anything away from them. They got whatever shot that they wanted."

Two things – One: lackadaisical is one of the all-time great words. And two: Minnesota was not lackadaisical. Or lethargic. Or listless. They were punch-drunk. They were a complete and utter mess. I’ve never seen a team that was down by one at the start of the third be so demoralized and confused by the end of the third. They were scrambling, chasing ghosts, and waving at air. All because of James Harden.

He started 0 for 7 in the first quarter and went for 22 in the third. But he wasn’t alone. Chris Paul had 15. And the Rockets as a team had 50. They had 50 in the first half and 50 in the third quarter. Just dropped a 50-piece on Minnesota’s head in their house. Thanks for having us over, but we’re here to hear your good, drink your beer and destroy your living room.  

Because the Rockets who haven’t been in rhythm this whole series found that rhythm in the third quarter and it was both amazing and horrifying. When this crew is firing on all cylinders, look the hell out. And that’s the scary part – they’re up 3-1 in the series and to hear them talk afterwards, they’ve only played one good quarter. And they’re not wrong, right Beard

I’m not sure what’s scarier – that third quarter or the fact that Harden is so matter-of-fact talking about that third quarter. He and his crew just went for one of the great quarters and he looks like he’s about to give the quarterly report in accounting. 

His only reaction was when Kristen Ledlow told him that he started 0 for 7 and he seems surprised by it. Like, really? Oh, okay. Doesn’t matter, I’ll just keep doing what I do. And what he did was smash the Timberwolves and end this series in one quarter.