HOUSTON – Houston coach Mike D’Antoni promised two things as his top-seeded Rockets headed into a seven-game series against a Timberwolves team that hasn’t played one since 2014:
Wolves All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns is going to do his thing.
“He’ll get a double-double,” D’Antoni said. “That’s who he is. That’s how they got here and that’s how they’ll stay here.”
But if D’Antoni and the Rockets get their way, Towns won’t reach that double-double by shooting three-point shots.
The playoffs are all about deciding what to give the opponent and what to take away, and D’Antoni sounded like a man who wants his guards to switch onto Towns and prevent him from taking open threes.
Asked why he considers Towns’ three-point shooting an important factor in the series, D’Antoni said: “Because he’s good at it [42.1 percent in the regular season]. He’s a hot guy. You can take certain things away. That you can take away and we do it by being sure we don’t leave him open and let him walk into a three because we’re not guarding. We have to be aware of that.
“You can’t take away his post-ups and moves down there. He’s going to score on anybody. But you can do a really good job on the threes.”
In Game 1 on Sunday, Towns was only 0-for-2 on three-pointers in an eight-point, 12-rebound performance.
“Their defense is very good,” Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Their numbers tell you how good they are, and then watch film and you see how good they are defensively.”
Towns said, “I’ve got to be better on both sides of the basketball. I’ve got to be better all around.”
Tough it out
Wolves forward Taj Gibson reported at Sunday’s morning shoot that his neck/shoulder injury isn’t improved from Wednesday’s overtime victory over Denver. But just like then, he intends to play through it.
“No different,” he said. “Just got to tough it out. It’s the playoffs. Once adrenaline gets in me at game speed, I’ll be fine.”
Said Wolves guard Jamal Crawford of Gibson: “He’s the last person I worry about. I know he’ll be there.”
Rockets forward Ryan Anderson did not play because of a sprained ankle but “has a chance” to play by Wednesday’s Game 2, D’Antoni said. Former Wolves forward Luc Mbah a Moute is out because of a dislocated shoulder.
Center Nene could play more with Anderson out, or Joe Johnson and Trevor Ariza could play more power forward. “We’ve got plenty of guys,” D’Antoni said.
The last time the Wolves played at Houston, Rockets superstar James Harden visited the Wolves locker room afterward to see about Wolves star Jimmy Butler, who partly tore his meniscus in that February game.
“Obviously, Jimmy is one of the best players we have in this league and you don’t ever want to see anyone injured,” Harden said. “We knew it was serious because of how much of a warrior and a beast he is. Usually Jimmy gets right back up. He didn’t do that. I wanted to check on him to make sure he was straight.
“I didn’t know what it was at the time, but I knew he was going to come back better than he was. Getting his team in the postseason is what he did.”
• Three games back from his knee surgery, Butler said: “I feel good, well-rested to tell you the truth. I’m confident in myself and this group of guys.”
• Thibodeau and Steve Clifford were Rockets assistant coaches more than a decade ago. Charlotte fired Clifford as head coach Friday. “I was around him every day here and we all know what a great coach he is,” Thibodeau said. “He proved that to everyone. I’m sure he’ll get another opportunity. He deserves it.”
• The Wolves invited Gerald Green to a free-agent mini-camp last September, but didn’t proceed any further with the forward, who signed with his hometown Rockets in December. “That was the last invitation I got to join their organization,” Green said. “Well, I’m happy I’m here at home and playing for the best team in the NBA.”
• The last time these teams played last month, Rockets forward Gerald Green was ejected and fined $25,000 after he shoved Wolves center Gorgui Dieng in the back after Dieng fouled Chris Paul. “I’m just worried about trying to protect home court,” Green told reporters. “All that other stuff is not my worries.”