If the bedlam at Target Center was any indication, the Wolves' nearly 14-year wait for the playoffs was worth it.
Minnesota looked like a new team, playing with noticeably more energy and far more authority and decisiveness on the offensive end.
The list of improvements was lengthy.
- Jimmy Butler returned to All-Star form.
- Karl-Anthony Towns played with ferocity.
- Andrew Wiggins looked like the star he's supposed to be.
- Taj Gibson was the rock he's always been.
- Jeff Teague outplayed Chris Paul from start to finish.
- Derrick Rose was vintage Derrick Rose.
- Jamal Crawford did his thing off the bench.
Houston equaled Minnesota's tenacious pace for the first two and a half quarters, but the Wolves went on a 32-14 run during a stretch of 8:51 midway through the third to fourth quarters, growing the lead to 19 points at the 9:58 mark of the fourth.
Houston, led by James Harden, didn't go away. They scored 13 of the next 15 points to cut the lead to nine, 99-90 with 6:34 to play.
That's when Minnesota punched back, harder.
Teague connected on an and-1 layup followed by back-to-back triples from Butler and Teague to push the lead back to 18.
Target Center went crazy. Houston called a timeout. Minnesota finished it.
Final score: Wolves 121, Rockets 105
The final tallies for the Wolves were striking.
- Butler: 29 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists
- Towns: 18 points, 16 rebounds, 2 blocks
- Teague: 23 points, 8 assists
- Wiggins: 20 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists
- Rose: 17 points on 8-of-16 shooting off the bench
What's more is that Minnesota outgunned Houston from the 3-point line, hitting 15-of-27 compared to Houston's 15-of-41.
Minnesota has a chance to even the series at two game apiece Monday night at home.