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Connor Williams Jersey
Autors: linchao (209.160.126.---)
Datums: 22/08/2018 08:31

HOUSTON — First things first: The Minnesota Timberwolves are not merely happy to be in the playoffs for the first time since 2004 Cheap Brian O'Neill Jersey , despite the prevailing narrative regarding their presence.

The circumstances certainly allude to a measure of complacency on behalf of the Timberwolves, who claimed a winner-take-all showdown with the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday to end the longest postseason drought in the league.

For their effort, which included surviving a lengthy span of the stretch run without All-Start guard Jimmy Butler, the Timberwolves earned a matchup against the top-seeded and heavily favored Houston Rockets, with their Western Conference first-round series set to commence Sunday at Toyota Center.

Given the long odds, and the fact that Minnesota hasn’t won a playoff series since the 2004 Western Conference Semifinals, is drawing Houston accomplishment enough?

Not particularly.

“We expect nothing but greatness from ourselves,” Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns said. “We didn’t wake up this morning like, ‘Hey, we’re going to go to Houston.’ We woke up saying we’re going to go to Houston and get the job done. We put pressure on ourselves because we want to be so great, we want to be the best team possible that we can be. I think we’re going to do fine.

“At the end of the day we don’t need anyone to tell us their opinions of how the series is going to go. We have confidence and we talk to each other. That’s all we need is each other in this moment.”

The Timberwolves will have to circle the wagons against an opponent that blitzed them four times during the regular season. The Rockets claimed the first three meetings by 18 points each and led by 25 in a 129-120 road victory March 18. Houston, the most prolific 3-point shooting team in the league by volume, hit 69 of 159 3s in those four games for a robust 43.4 percent.

How Minnesota handles the challenge that comes with defending the Rockets might align with its offensive approach. By relying on Towns Connor Williams Jersey , who paced the team in points (1,743), rebounds (1,012), blocks (115) and 3-pointers (120), plus Butler in the post, Minnesota might unlock a pace that could prevent Houston from its usually lethal combo of layups and open 3s.

“We’ve got the capability to play slower; we’ve got KAT and Jimmy and those guys who can post the ball and put guys in isolation situations,” Timberwolves guard Jeff Teague said. “Against that team they switch so much they kind of want you to post the ball so they can come and trap, so we’ve got to push the ball and try to get some easy scores. And we’re going to have to make some shots.”

Matching the Rockets offensively might be as sound a strategy as anything the Timberwolves can muster defensively. Houston not only made more 3-pointers (1,256) than any team in NBA history, the Rockets actually attempted more 3s (3,470) than shots from inside the arc (3,446).

Additionally Rams Game Jerseys , Rockets guards James Harden and Chris Paul ranked first and fourth, respectively, in isolation points per possession. And for added measure, center Clint Capela paced the league in field goal percentage (65.2), gorging on a healthy portion of lobs courtesy of the penetration Harden and Paul created by opponents scrambling to defend the 3-point arc.

The Timberwolves finished 23rd in defensive efficiency during the regular season, so any expectation that they might lock down the Rockets this series is foolhardy. The Rockets are well aware of their potency, and the potential to inflect damage by doing what they usually do.

“You go out there and compete, and go back to what you’ve been doing all year,” Harden said. “Staying together, having that positive mindset. Bad things are going to happen. Turnovers are going to happen, mistakes are going to happen but the sooner you can bounce back to that next play, the better off you’ll be.”

Jakub Vrana came to the rink expecting to play on the Capitals‘ third line again. He left as a top-liner on top of the world.

Vrana made the most of his promotion to the top line alongside Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, setting up the tying goal and scoring the Game 5 winner as Washington beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 6-3 Saturday night to take a 3-2 lead in the second-round series and put the back-to-back defending Stanley Cup champions on the brink of elimination.

After replacing an ineffective Devante Smith-Pelly on the top line Matt Kemp Jersey , the 22-year-old rookie sprung Kuznetsov on the breakaway that tied the score early in the third period and took a pass from Ovechkin and scored the go-ahead goal with 4:38 left to send a fired-up crowd into a frenzy. Vrana made Barry Trotz look like a genius for bumping him up the lineup but wasn’t expecting to be his coach’s plan B.

”That’s just how the game rolls,” said Vrana, who also assisted on Brett Connolly’s first-period goal to give him three points. ”Sometimes you’re gonna make changes. Today we did. We were all ready. I felt comfortable out there. Ready for next game.”

That next game, Monday night in Pittsburgh, is the Capitals’ chance to advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in the Ovechkin era and for the first time overall since 1998 when they lost in the Cup Final. They may have to do it without star center Nicklas Backstrom, who left in the third period with an upper-body injury that Trotz said the team will have more information on Sunday.

With Backstrom unable to play the final 13 minutes, Lars Eller double-shifted and Vrana looked like a perfect fit with Ovechkin and Kuznetsov. The Capitals are on the verge of beating Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Penguins for the first time in four playoff series dating to 2009 on the strength of top-end scoring and goaltending from Braden Holtby, who stopped 36 of the 39 shots he faced.

”Obviously Holts right now playing unbelievable,” Ovechkin said. ”He’s a big wall over there. When he play like that, it give us confidence.”

Confidence isn’t lacking on either side. The Capitals hope they can build off an emotional victory, and the Penguins will try to win their fourth consecutive Game 6 after falling behind 3-2 in a series.

”Your desperation level is a little higher,” said Crosby Kerryon Johnson Youth Jersey , who scored his ninth goal of the playoffs. ”You’re aware of the situation, and that brings out the best in everybody. We knew it was going to be a tight series. We need to make sure we leave it all out there, give ourselves a chance to get back here.”

The Capitals ensured at least one more home game this postseason with goals by John Carlson and Connolly 33 seconds apart in the first period and a rebound effort in the third after being outshot 18-5 in the second. Pittsburgh got goals from Jamie Oleksiak at even strength and Crosby and Patric Hornqvist on the power play, often hanging goalie Matt Murray out to dry as he allowed four on 30 shots.

Kuznetsov’s goal brought out his bird-flapping celebration and awakened a crowd that booed the Capitals at the end of the second period. Vrana’s goal was followed by deafening chants of ”Lets’ Go Caps!” at the next timeout, among the loudest in the building over Washington’s decade-long run of contention.

”Tonight was one of those games where we needed to earn it from our fans,” Holtby said. ”They probably think `Here we go again’ and we’re not thinking that. We’re thinking we’re pushing forward, we’re focusing on the moment and hopefully we gave them belief with that third period because this group in here believes in ourselves.”

NOTES: T.J. Oshie and Eller each scored an empty-netter in the final minutes to ice it. … Trotz said Carlson was being evaluated after taking a high hit from Jake Guentzel late in the third period. … The goals 33 seconds apart by Carlson and Connolly were the second-fastest in Capitals playoff history behind Craig Laughlin and Dave Christian (32 seconds) in 1984. … Crosby took sole possession of second place on the Penguins’ all-time playoff goals list with his 66th, breaking a tie with Jaromir Jagr. Crosby is 10 shy of Mario Lemieux for the most in franchise history. … Carlson is 36th defenseman in history and third active with 10-plus power-play points in the playoffs. No defenseman has reached 11 power-play points in the postseason since Nicklas Lidstrom and Sergei Gonchar in 2009.



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