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Rockets Ready For Whatever Wolves Defense Throws At Them

D'Antoni: "If we play well, we don't care how they defend us."

April 13, 2018 - 2:32 pm

HOUSTON (SportsRadio 610)- Gerald Green was ejected the last time the Rockets played the Minnesota Timberwolves, but while he was in the game, the Rockets guard made his presence known, scoring 15 points, connecting on all five of his field goal attempts. As the two teams get ready to meet again Sunday at Toyota Center in game one of the Western Conference Quarterfinals, Green knows he'll have chances to make an impact once again.

"They have a defensive strategy, I guess, to where they try to protect the paint," Green said Friday before the Rockets first practice before the start of the playoffs. "With guys like James (Harden) and (Chris Paul) who are really good at creating, this kind of leaves guys like me, Ryan (Anderson), (Eric Gordon), and Trevor (Ariza) open for a lot of shots."

Green was tossed in the fourth quarter of that March 18 game in Minneapolis after picking up a second technical foul for shoving Wolves forward Gorgui Dieng. The Rockets won that game 129-120, completing a sweep of the regular-season series. Houston averaged 122.8 points in those four contests, and that nine-point win was the closest of the four matchups. Still, Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni says there's reason to be concerned about the team that will play in its first playoff game in 14 years Sunday night.

 "They're a big team, they pound it inside," he said. "Karl-Anthony Towns is one of the better players in the league, especially his effiency at what he does. Shoots threes for a big guy, that always puts some pressure on you, and then you've got (Andrew) Wiggins and (Jimmy) Butler and (Jeff) Teague and (Taj) Gibson, guys that can play, so yeah, they're a playoff team, they're a good team, and we'll have to play really well to beat them."

D'Antoni didn't mention Minnesota's defense, and for good reason. The Wolves' futility on that end of the floor wasn't Rockets specific. They were bad against everyone, finishing in the bottom third in defensive efficiency, the worst of the eight Western Conference playoff teams. Under head coach Tom Thibodeau, the Wolves defensive scheme is reluctant to switching, and that helped the Rockets shoot just under 44 percent from behind the 3-point line in the four games, though D'Antoni doesn't read much into that.

"It's such a small sample," he said. "Four games, I mean, who knows why those things happen. We were sharp those games. They do converge a lot on the inside, so it leaves our shooters open."

Despite the success against Minnesota this season, the Rockets feasted on switching defenses, taking advantage of favorable matchups, but D'Antoni says he isn't concerned about the Wolves or any team playing a certain style of defense against his squad.

"I think teams going forward have to make a choice. They gotta figure out how they want to defend us, and we're ok with anyhting. If we play well, we don't care how they defend us."

The Rockets finished the regular season scoring 112.2 points per 100 poessessions, second best in the NBA, a tenth of a point behind the Golden State Warriors, and on Friday, Chris Paul echoed the confidence of his coach.

"We done seen everyhing you can see," he said. "Ain't nothing gonna bother us. They may slow us done (pace), we don't know, we're gonna see, but we're just going to try to figure it out."