For 12 minutes on Monday night, anyone that tuned in to TNT at around 9:15 got to witness a truly unbelievable quarter of basketball. That was when the Houston Rockets, after most likely chugging jet fuel at halftime, came out blistering hot and unleashed a 50-point explosion on the Minnesota Timberwolves, effectively incinerating their chances in the game and the series.
The score at halftime read 50-49, and it was looking like the Timberwolves had a chance at tying the series 2-2. This year’s (potential) MVP James Harden had struggled up to that point, shooting 0-7 from the field in the first quarter and 4-7 in the second, ending the half with 12 points and a plethora of missed step back three-point attempts.
The Philadelphia 76er’s mantra is “Trust the Process” because of their rigid commitment to the tanking scheme that led them to drafting the goofily dominant behemoth Joel Embiid and the no-nonsense Australian hardo Ben Simmons, the two key young players behind this season’s playoff run. As the Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor stated in Tuesday’s “Ringer NBA Show” podcast, the Rockets’ slogan should be “Trust the Math.”
The Rockets entered the second half of this game shooting 48-155 on three-pointers in the series, the equivalent of around 30.9 percent from three. On the season, they shot 36 percent from three on an NBA record 42.4 attempts per game, which is an almost astronomical number of threes to take. Houston has stuck to the plan all season and earned the No. 1 seed, so there was no way they would change their approach when the playoffs rolled around. After a slow shooting start to the series, the Rockets had to erupt at some point, but no one would’ve seen this coming.
James Harden and Co. stuck to their guns from the beginning of the third quarter on. Harden unleashed dazzling shot after dazzling shot, going 7-10 from the field, 3-4 from three, and 5-5 from the free throw line for 22 points, two points more than the entire Timberwolves team. The way Harden put up points could’ve been an inefficient mess, but instead it was a beautiful throwback basketball display reminiscent of the great performances by incredible iso players like Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson. Harden called for pick-and-rolls repeatedly and forced Timberwolves’ center Karl-Anthony Towns to guard him on the perimeter, a scary sight to see for a Wolves fan. Harden hit step back threes, step back twos, floaters, drove by and into Towns for layups, and iced all of his free throws. It was the type of quarter that made you think Harden had some of “Michael’s Secret Stuff” in the locker room before. Not only was Harden’s play phenomenal, Chris Paul added 15 points of his own, shooting 4-6 from the field, 3-3 from three, and 4-4 from the free throw line. The team as a whole shot 14-24 from the field, 9-14 from three, and 13-13 from the free throw line.
The Rockets’ 50-point quarter is the second-highest scoring quarter in NBA playoff history, behind only the Lakers’ 51-point quarter in a game in 1962. I’ve never seen a team get hot like this in my entire time watching the NBA, and watching the game live, it made me wonder where Harden will end up on the NBA’s all-time players list. When Houston is clicking, the rest of the league is in trouble because no one can stop the hero play of Harden and the rest of the team’s ability to splash from three. That quarter Monday night was breathtaking and it was basketball I will never forget. Enjoy this crazy Rockets team while you can, because they’re one of the only teams I’ve ever seen who can go supernova and turn any game into a spectacle.
Zac Lane is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.