The Wolves are 37-22 with Butler this year and 10-13 without him.
Rarely can you call Game 1 of a seven-game series a "must win", but the way things unfolded Sunday night in Houston, the Timberwolves had to win Game 1. Harden hit seven of his 12 attempts, while everybody else combined to shoot 3-of-25 from deep. He carried Houston in the second half like Capela did in the first.
Instead, the Rockets went on a run.
Houston kept All-Star big man Towns in check, limiting him to just eight points after he'd averaged 21.3 in leading the Wolves to their first playoff appearance since 2014.
For the Timberwolves Andrew Wiggins led the way with 18 points, with Derrick Rose (16) and Jamal Crawford (15) pitching in off the bench. Over the next two quarters, they outscored the high-powered Rockets, who led the National Basketball Association in point differential, by two points.
In the last regular season meeting between the two teams in March, Gerald Green was ejected in the fourth quarter for coming to Chris Paul's defense after Minnesota's Gorgui Dieng pushed Paul down after a foul.
One intriguing point made by Thorpe and backed up by Lowe: in the four regular season matchups between Houston and Minnesota, the Rockets were willing to allow James Harden to be switched onto Karl-Anthony Towns. But the Timberwolves got going after that and had tied it up by late in the first quarter.
The Wolves opened the game slowly, but fought back to close the gap to six points by the end of the first quarter.
Rockets: Ryan Anderson missed the game with a sprained left ankle.
Clint Capela posted a new playoff career hiigh with 24 points, adding 12 rebounds and three blocks. Coach Mike D'Antoni said there was a chance he could return for Game 2, but that he would know more in the next couple of days.
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