The Minnesota Timberwolves had a chance to steal Game 1 against the Houston Rockets on Sunday ... and then another chance, and another chance, and another. The Rockets eventually won, 104-101, but it came in an absolutely nuts ending featuring one play in particular that I can’t ever remember seeing in a real-life NBA game.
We can only do it justice by running back through all the ridiculous things that happened. Here’s a summary.
Both teams forget a free throw miss was live
James Harden absolutely dominated this game, finishing with 44 points on 15-of-26 shooting. He also shot 7-of-9 from the free throw line, and one of those two misses led to this absolutely baffling situation.
There had been a timeout called between the first and second free throw, which threw off everyone’s rhythm. Still, as Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni said after the game, the referee did call out “one shot,” signifying the correct situation. Karl-Anthony Towns actually went to hand the referee the ball, though, before both teams woke up and realized what had happened.
I have never seen a situation quite like this. ESPN’s Zach Lowe has watched way more basketball in his life than me, and he agrees.
Filthy display of shotmaking from Harden. Legit don't remember ever seeing whatever happened after that Harden free throw.— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) April 16, 2018
The referees should have called a travel on Towns, ironically enough, and Minnesota instead got a fast break dunk out of it. That made it a 102-97 game, putting the Timberwolves down just five. It didn’t end up mattering, but man, if it did ...
Nobody is in the right or in the wrong here, I don’t think. It’s just a baffling thing that happened.
Harden missed a wide-open three
OK, everyone misses threes, but it was just bizarre to see him miss that shot on a night like the one he had. Obviously, it worked out fine.
Chris Paul threw the ball away
Minnesota would have been forced to play the foul game, likely futilely, except that Paul gifted them this play. All of a sudden, it was Minnesota ball in a one-shot game with seconds left. What!?
Chris Paul tried his absolute best to throw this game away pic.twitter.com/4CqyunMq4m— #Mickstape (Playoffs) (@MickstapeShow) April 16, 2018
Let’s not mince words — Paul had a hideous game. He scored 14 but shot 5-of-14 from the field, and he turned the ball over six times while only assisting four times. He will be better, and his reputation as a playoff choker is extremely overblown. But man, that was not an inspiring performance in any manner.
Jimmy Butler took a horrid game-tying attempt
Minnesota, with another chance to win this game, tries to do it like this.
Jimmy Butler just dribbled up the court.— Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) April 16, 2018
Did an unnecessary spin move.
Stepped inside the 3-point line.
Took a bad fadeway 2.
While down 3 points
And airballed it.
Not only did he take a terrible shot, but HE HAD A FOOT ON THE LINE. He airballed it, so it doesn’t really matter, but that’s just awful execution.
Houston wins, despite shooting 3-of-25 on three-pointers outside of Harden. That won’t happen again. Man, this series gotta be over now.