Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau offered a very matter of fact answer when asked if he had seen anything different out of point guard Derrick Rose in Saturday’s 121-105 victory over the Rockets.
“Nope.” Thibodeau said.
Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni also didn’t feel much like elaborating on Rose’s turn-back-the-clock performance of 17 points on 16 shot attempts in 21 minutes in Game 3.
“He’s got his juice back,” D’Antoni said.
There’s one thing for sure about Rose’s tenure with the Wolves — he’s always going to see if the juice is there each night.
Rose leads the Wolves in this series in one advanced statistic — usage rate. Usage rate measures what percentage of a team’s possessions end with that player taking a shot, committing a turnover or shooting free throws. Rose’s usage rate of 31 percent is 10th among all players in the playoffs averaging over 15 minutes per game, according to NBA.com. The next closest Wolves player to Rose in this series is Andrew Wiggins at 23.2 percent.
What exactly does this mean? If the Wolves have any hope of winning this series, they need Rose to play like he did Saturday, because he’s going to try and get his.
On Saturday, Rose looked formidable. He shot 8-for-16 and 1 of 2 from three-point range. What might pop out at you from the boxscore was that Rose’s 16 shots were second on the team behind Jimmy Butler’s 19. For the series, Rose has taken the second-most shots on the Wolves at 13 per game (and making 6.3), trailing only Wiggins (13.3) — even though Rose has played 11.8 fewer minutes per game than Wiggins. He’s averaging more shots per game than Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns, who both are playing over 34 minutes.
Rose’s insertion into the Wolves rotation has meant Tyus Jones is almost a nonfactor when it comes to shooting. Jones is averaging just two shot attempts in this series.
For Saturday, Rose’s decision to keep chucking paid off. The Wolves were plus-13 when Rose was on the floor.
After the game, Rose paused on the court to do postgame interviews and embraced his agent B.J. Armstrong. It had to feel good for the star-crossed Rose to be contributing in a playoff game again.
“We need every point,” Jamal Crawford said. “He’s the youngest MVP ever. People forget that. I don’t know why. His peers know how good he is. It’s a blessing for him to be on this team. … We see it all the time in practice. So when he’s rolling and doing his thing, it’s not a surprise to us. It’s just good everybody else gets a chance to see it.”
He’ll have a few more chances to show if he’s still got it.
The Wolves hit the same number of three-pointers as the Rockets — 15 — but needed 14 fewer attempts to hit that mark. The Wolves held the Rockets to 15 of 41 shooting from three-point range and were 15 of 27 themselves.
The Rockets are hitting just 31.5 percent of their threes this series after they shot 36.2 percent during the season. The Wolves and coach Tom Thibodeau say their defense is improving against the Rockets. Crawford said the Wolves are still figuring out the fine line between helping off or staying home against shooters when James Harden or Chris Paul drive to the basket.
“That’s the trick bag they put the whole league in,” Crawford said. “They figured out how to read when they need to do something, keep you honest enough where they can find the shooter or they keep you honest to stay home and they get their stuff going.”
In Game 3, the Wolves allowed the Rockets to shoot 15 three-pointers that are considered “open,” according to NBA.com, in which the closest defender is four to six feet away. Nineteen attempts were wide open, or a defender was six feet or more from the shooter. On those shots, Eric Gordon was 2 of 7 while P.J. Tucker was 0 of 5.
Some of the Wolves’ best defensive numbers in Game 3 came from the bench. The Wolves had nine steals overall — but two from Rose, two from Gorgui Dieng and one from Jamal Crawford. The Rockets as a team had only four. If the Wolves can keep getting production like that out of their second unit, then maybe, just maybe they have a shot of coming back in this series.