Regular-season record: 65-17, first in Western Conference and best record in the NBA. Houston’s 34-7 home record tied Toronto for best in the league.


James Harden: Seemingly impossible to stop, Harden led the league in scoring (30.4), threes made (265) and free throw attempts per game (10.1). He was also third with 8.8 assists. In four games vs. the Wolves, Harden averaged 27.3 points and 10.3 assists.

Chris Paul: Aging like fine wine, Paul averaged 16.0 points, 8.3 assists and 8.0 rebounds per game vs. Minnesota this season. He stays on the court when Harden rests and is just as hard to cover. This is his chance to put past playoff disappointments behind him.


Ryan Anderson: The quintessential stretch four has been tough on the Wolves this season, shooting 50 percent on threes. He draws Karl-Anthony Towns away from the basket. If his ankle injury keeps him out of Game 1, the Wolves would benefit.


Eric Gordon: Everybody fears the duo of Harden and Paul, but Gordon is a load as well, averaging 16.0 points vs. the Wolves this season. He is a key part of the Rockets bench.


Offense: It’s all about three-pointers and dunks with the Rockets. Or, it’s all about the match. They lead the league in threes taken (42.3) and made (15.3) per game, which is why they’ve clobbered the Wolves despite making about the same number of shots per game.

Defense: A surprising strength for the Rockets, who play fast on offense but still rank sixth in points allowed (103.9) and are in the middle of the pack on field goal defense. They defend the three well.


The Rockets took 546 more three-pointers than anyone else and were third in the league in free throw attempts. That’s why it’s so hard for teams that don’t hit threes to beat them.


PG Chris Paul (18.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 7.9 apg)

SG James Harden (30.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 8.8 apg)

SF P.J. Tucker (6.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 0.9 apg)

PF Trevor Ariza (11.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.6 apg)

 C Clint Capela (13.9 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 1.9 bpg)


 G Eric Gordon (18.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.2 apg)

 F Ryan Anderson (9.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 0.9 apg)

 F Gerald Green (12.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 0.6 apg)


F Ryan Anderson (ankle) is questionable. Luc Mbah a Moute (shoulder) is out.


Regular-season record: 47-35, eighth in the Western Conference. The Wolves were 13-13 on the road against Western Conference teams.


Jimmy Butler: He’s one of the league’s best two-way players; the Wolves were 37-22 when he played, 10-13 when he didn’t. Shot a career-high 47.4 percent and was fourth in the league in steals. He led the team in scoring in 29 of the 59 games he played.

Karl-Anthony Towns: Set career highs in shooting (54.5 percent), three-point shooting (42.1) and free-throw percentage (85.8). He was also fourth in the league in rebounding, 20th in scoring, 11th in blocks.

X Factor

Nemanja Bjelica: A starter when Butler was hurt, Bjelica has struggled since his return to the bench, scoring just five points and making two of 13 shots the past three games. His ability to hit threes could be crucial in this series.

Must Step up

Andrew Wiggins: In five very important April games, he averaged just 14.4 points and shot 37.7 percent. The Wolves need an engaged Wiggins to have a chance.

Breaking it down

Offense: The Wolves offense made up for being last in three-pointers made by being fifth in free-throw attempts. That doesn’t work with Houston. The Wolves will need to make a few more threes to have a chance.

Defense: Up and down all season, perhaps being able to focus on just one opponent for an extended stretch will bring out the best in the Wolves defense.

KEY Stat

The Rockets took an average of 39.8 three-pointers per game in four games vs. Minnesota this season, their highest number against any rival.

Starting lineup

PG Jeff Teague (14.2 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 7.0 apg)

SG Jimmy Butler (22.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.9 apg)

SF Andrew Wiggins (17.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg)

PF Taj Gibson (12.2 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.2 apg)

 C Karl-Anthony Towns (21.3 ppg, 12.3 rpg)

KEY reserves

 G Jamal Crawford (10.3 ppg, 2.3 apg)

 F Nemanja Bjelica (6.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.3 apg)

 G Tyus Jones (5.1 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 2.8 apg)



Kent Youngblood