James Harden and Clint Capela stir as Rockets take 1-0 lead over Timberwolves

12:52 AM ET

HOUSTON — The critics James Harden claims not to hear won’t be inside by a fantastic opening in a array opener of a initial round. For Harden, now some-more than ever, a playoffs are about how he finishes, not how he starts.

But Harden looked each bit like a MVP he will substantially shortly be during a Houston Rockets’ 104-101 Game 1 win over a Minnesota Timberwolves.

And a Rockets, record-setting 3-point gunners whose long-range hold (outside of Harden) unsuccessful them Sunday night during a Toyota Center, indispensable that kind of opening from their luminary — a actor who infamously no-showed as Houston’s deteriorate finished on a home justice final May.

Harden torched a Timberwolves for 44 points on 15-of-26 shooting, including 7-of-12 from 3-point range. The rest of a Rockets done usually 3-of-25 3-point attempts — a singular 12 percent brickfest for a group that pennyless a possess one-year-old record for 3s done in a deteriorate — though Harden was simply too good to let eighth-seeded Minnesota start a array by unctuous out an upset.

Time after time, “The Beard” strike large shots when movement seemed to be moving to Minnesota’s side. Soon after a Timberwolves took a lead mid by a fourth quarter, Harden re-entered a diversion and immediately went on a do-it-himself 7-0 run, attack a floater off a glass, pushing for a layup and drilling a pull-up 3 in transition.

At that point, after Minnesota conduct manager Tom Thibodeau called timeout, Harden strutted down a core of a justice and forked to a hardwood as if to remind everybody that this is his house.

Harden’s brilliance, highlighted by his 13 points in a fourth quarter, authorised Houston to overcome a rather forgettable Rockets playoff entrance by Chris Paul. Paul uncharacteristically had some-more turnovers (six) than assists (four) and finished with usually 14 points on 5-of-14 shooting. Paul is a co-star Harden helped partisan final summer, a pairing that led a Rockets to a franchise-record 65-win unchanging deteriorate to explain a tip altogether seed. But Sunday night, Paul’s 6 turnovers tied for his second-most in a postseason diversion (he had 8 opposite a San Antonio Spurs in 2012).

Paul’s final fumble — an nonessential airmailed pass out of end with 8.7 seconds left — could have unequivocally bitten a Rockets. But Jimmy Butler, personification with a black hang on his bruise right wrist, airballed a firmly contested 3 that could have tied a game, completing his 4-of-11 sharpened night.

It also helped Houston’s means that Minnesota’s other All-Star, core Karl-Anthony Towns, had a kind of awful playoff entrance that will entice a lot of critique during a 3 prolonged days before Game 2. Towns was infrequently an afterthought offensively, scoring usually 8 points on 3-of-9 shooting.

Houston’s Clint Capela dominated a matchup between dual of a NBA’s best immature large men, producing 24 points, 12 rebounds and 3 blocks. He had 20 points and 10 rebounds by halftime, feasting on feeds from Harden, who finished with 8 assists. Capela is a initial actor with during slightest 20 points and 10 rebounds in possibly half of a playoff diversion given Kevin Durant on May 15, 2014.

Harden never even watched a film that that Game 6 stinker opposite a Spurs that finished his deteriorate a year ago. He positively has no seductiveness in revisiting it now, not when he has a event to make a kind of story that would make any prior playoff failures apart memories.

Sunday night was a initial step. Harden and a Rockets have 15 some-more to go.

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