The Houston Rockets kicked off their championship quest with a narrow 114-101 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday night to take a 1-0 lead in their first-round series.
Despite the victory, head coach Mike D'Antoni expressed some concerns with the display from his team and doesn't believe they played well enough.
The Rockets ended the regular season with the best record in the NBA as they finished 65-17 but were far from their best in the opening encounter with the T-Wolves.
They needed a 44-point night from MVP-elect James Harden to seal the win in the end but D'Antoni still feels that winning in this manner may stand them in good stead.
“If you keep grinding it out, keep playing defence, you can win games you don’t play well," he said, per ESPN's Tim MacMahon.
"To win a championship, you have to do that. I don’t think we were equipped last year to do that.”
At this stage of the year in the playoffs, the most important thing is to get victories on the board, even if it's not pretty.
Houston was a historic force offensively throughout the campaign and played the best basketball in the league.
But it's not always easy to replicate that in the postseason when opponents ramp it up defensively.
Much of their struggles, however, came from their own inability to knock down shots as they were just 10-of-37 from three-point range (27 percent).
Speaking after the game, All-Star point guard Chris Paul didn't see it as a huge concern and said they won't hesitate to keep shooting.
“We’ve had games like this throughout the season and the biggest thing that I’ve learned, that I think our teams knows is that we don’t stop shooting,” Paul said, per USA Today.
“We still take the shots that we get and coming into game two guess what? We’re going to shoot them again because we have that confidence.”
They may have struggled offensively, but the Texas-based outfit did a great job locking down Minnesota defensively.
The Timberwolves were held to just 43.8 percent shooting from the field and 34.8 percent from downtown.
Dominant big man Karl-Anthony Towns could only manage eight points on the night which shows just how good the Rockets defence was.
Their work on this end of the floor was heavily criticised last year and this improvement shows just why they're considered among the favourites to win the Larry O'Brien trophy.
Houston will have a chance to put one foot in the second round if they win game two on Wednesday night and take a 2-0 lead.
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