I did not expect this. In hell, I already built in half an introductory paragraph for this summary of how…
I did not expect this. In hell, I already built in half an introductory paragraph for this summary of how the rockets continue to get everything they want against Wolvesna, and how bad a match is for them.
The first half was all that scares us about the rockets – being hit down on the floor, wide open wood, Harden units, Capela dunks. Everything looked too easy for them, and the wolven put up some resistance. They were also awkward offensive, taking too many mid-range jumpers, did not move the ball and look generally overwhelmed.
And then the other half occurred. Down 1
4 in half-time (and it was only because of a 40-foot Andrew Wiggins buzzer beater,) The Wolves completely shackled the rockets over the last two quarters, outscoring them 55-29, and holding them to nine fourth quarter points. While the rockets missed their fair share of open, Wolves did a fantastic job of removing the lightweight pockets from picking and rolling in the first half, doing a much better job of sticking with ball handlers, switching out and closing out on shooters. They also forced a lot of other rounds thanks to quick hands and expectations. They were again in double-digit star with 11 on the game.
This was a great teamwork, with six guys in double figure and all who played good contributions. As an example, Jeff Teague, as we wrote about earlier today, killed once more with little purpose and wrecked down early. Finally he took and scored two that beat the game in the third quarter without hesitation. Andrew Wiggins had one of his better around the whole season’s efforts, marked by three blocked shots which I thought was fantastic and hugely valuable.
Robert Covington had what I thought was his worst defensive half as a Wolf in the first half, got cut on several times, more than lost in others. He finished crediting with two stakes and two blocks along with his 13 points, six boards and three assistants, but in a remarkable stretch he tied up Chris Paul and won the following jump ball, tied Clint Capela and won it jump the ball as well. His three pointers gave the Wolvesna their first double digit lead halfway through the fourth quarter, and they were never seriously challenged.
One of the things that Wolves did during the second half of the year was to stay with ball handlers, allowing helpers to get in position to force sales, as opposed to shrinking to cover up. But when the screens came, the Wolves were effective to slow and recover, and did not give up the simple ones who had plagued them. Half-time, James Harden had 22 points and Capela 16. They finished 29 and 22.
This was a very important game for Wolves, which comes from the loss to Boston. The schedule has been favorable since trading, but a loss tonight would have put them two matches below .500 and given them a losing stroke that they really could not afford. After they played Charlotte on Wednesday at home, ten of their next 13 were on the road, so they really could not afford a decline. This was an enormous effort against a talented team that looked like they had the Wolves. It would have been absolutely no surprise if they did not come back as they did, but seeing them get so stuck in the second half was one of the nicest stretches of the season.
The wolf is back again at .500. They will review Wednesday, but in the meanwhile we will enjoy this one. John will have his night cap with everything from the winning storage room later.
Wow. What a ball game.