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Minnesota’s slow-to-develop Kalen
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, up-and-down defense has finally started
to shine, against this high-octane Houston team no less.

There’s been no wait quite like the one for a win by the Timberwolves in the
playoffs, though.

Jimmy Butler hit four 3-pointers among his 28 points and Karl-Anthony Towns
snapped back from a bad start to the series with 18 points and 16 rebounds,
leading the Timberwolves past the Rockets 121-105 in Game 3 on Saturday night
for their first postseason victory in 14 years.

”This city deserves being in the playoffs a little bit longer,” Butler said.
”We’ll see what we have. But as long as we guard, as long as we defend, we’ll
put ourselves in a good enough position to win.”

Jeff Teague scored 23 points and Andrew Wiggins pitched in 20 points with
another four 3-pointers, helping the Timberwolves match the NBA’s best 3-point
shooting team with 15 makes apiece from long range. Minnesota took 27; Houston
launched 41.

”I tell everybody all the time, as long as you’re in rhythm, no matter if
somebody’s in front of you or not, it’s a good shot for you because we think
that you can make that,” Butler said after the Wolves shot 50 percent overall
from the floor.

Not to be left out was Derrick Rose and his 17 points off the bench,
including 10 points in nine minutes before halftime. The Wolves closed the third
quarter with a 26-14 run and produced spurts of 15-3 and 11-2 in the final
period, perfecting their plan to play at a faster pace.

”We’ve got to do a better job of imposing our will at the beginning of the
game,” said James Harden, who led the Rockets with 29 points.

The Rockets made four 3-pointers on their last seven possessions of the first
half to turn an 11-point deficit to just one in less than 3 1/2 minutes up until
the break. Butler twisted his left ankle during that stretch, causing him to
clutch his foot in pain and create some brief anxiety in the arena Ronald
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, but he didn’t require, or at least
accept, any medical attention. There was no hint that he was hurt in the second
half.

”He’s the heart and soul,” said Teague, who made three 3-pointers himself.
”When he’s out there competing, it rubs off on everybody.”

Taj Gibson hounded Harden and forced an airballed 3-pointer, prompting the
apex of the noise throughout the night with the Wolves ahead 77-70. Towns
powered his way past Ryan Anderson for a layup and a three-point play with 1:57
left in the third quarter, pushing the lead to 10 points, and he flexed his
biceps to the crowd after the whistle as he walked like King Kong to the corner
of the court in celebration. There was no letdown in the fourth quarter,
either.

”Give them a lot of credit. A lot of their 3s were butt naked, too. We were
giving them uncontested 3s, and you know we’ve got to be better,” said Chris
Paul, who fouled out with 17 points.

For the first time since May 29, 2004, the fifth game of the Western
Conference finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, the NBA playoffs descended on
downtown Minneapolis. The shine of this long-awaited return to relevance by the
29-year-old franchise was dulled a bit by the team’s fade down the stretch to
finish eighth in the conference and draw the most daunting matchup available
against a Rockets team that won all four regular season games by an average of
16 points and took the first two games of this series in Houston.

The occasion was still plenty special Harrison
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, though, with the memory of late coach and
executive Flip Saunders not far from the minds of the Target Center regulars,
and the sellout crowd matched the moment to make the arena louder than it had
been all season.

”It was crazy. All the fans were in the game the whole time,” Wiggins said.
”They helped us gain momentum going forward.”

HARD FOR HARDEN

Harden, who had 44 points in Game 1 but lost his rainbow jumper in Game 2 and
finished only 2 for 18 from the floor for 12 points, wasn’t a whole lot sharper
in Game 3. He went 9 for 21, including 3 for 8 from 3-point range.

”We stooped to their level, playing slow,” said Rockets sixth man Eric
Gordon, who went 5 for 16 from the floor. ”We didn’t create.”

GOING TO TOWNS

After totaling only 13 points over the first two games, Towns was constantly
double-teamed by the Rockets and didn’t attempt a shot in the first quarter. The
7-footer’s energy got going soon after that, though, with an emphatic dunk on
Clint Capela after peeling away from the post-up to snag a high pass from
Teague.

”You let the game tell you what to happen,” Towns said. ”Just trying to find
different ways to score.”

TIP-INS

Rockets: Anderson was in action for the first time in seven games due to a
sprained left ankle and had with 12 points. Houston was 18-1 during the regular
season when he made at least three 3-point shots. … The Rockets lost for only
the fourth time in 48 games this season with Harden, Paul and Capela all on the
floor.

Timberwolves: Minnesota had 29 assists on 45 made field goals, with only
seven turnovers. … Rose has 42 points in the series on 19-for-39 shooting in 62
minutes. … The Wolves beat the Rockets for just the third time in their last 23
meetings. … This was the second-most made 3-pointers of the season for
Minnesota.

UP NEXT

Game 4 is on Monday night at 8 p.m. EDT.

Marvin Lewis showed up for his first news conference as the Bengals head
coach in 2003 wearing his Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl ring.

Every time he waved his right hand, the 200 diamonds gleamed yellow and white
in the bright television lights.

It was more than an eye-catching fashion statement. Lewis was setting the bar
high for himself and his team.

"It's for a reason Bradley
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," Lewis said. "What I'm going to hammer home
to our guys is that we're not that far away."

Fifteen years later, postseason success is even farther away for the Bengals,
who haven't won a playoff game since the 1990 season.

Yet Lewis is still in Cincinnati, getting another chance 鈥?his 16th and
counting 鈥?to deliver on the optimism he flashed that January day so long ago.
He has the second-longest current tenure in the NFL, trailing only New England's
Bill Belichick, who has won five Super Bowls.

It's highly unusual for a coach to stay with any team so long, something that
Lewis fully appreciates.

"I think a lot of people talk about it quite a bit," Lewis said. "I know
coaches do. I think everybody aspires to do that."

In the quick-to-change NFL, it's shocking for a coach to stay with a team so
long with so little success. The Bengals have reached the playoffs seven times
in Lewis' 15 seasons, losing every time. They made the playoffs five straight
seasons from 2011-15 and lost in the first round each time, setting an NFL
record with their five straight quick exits.

Lewis' 0-7 coaching mark in the playoffs is the worst for any coach in NFL
history. Yet, he got a two-year contract extension at the end of last season
from owner Mike Brown, who is averse to change and thinks Lewis has done a good
job despite the results. The Bengals are coming off back-to-back losing
seasons.

"We remember the five previous seasons we got to the playoffs," Brown said.
"I don't think there's convincing evidence we can't get the job done around
here. I think it's to the contrary. And we'll see how it turns out.

"I put my bet down and I'm going to ride on it, and people can judge when
it's run its course."

As another losing season wound down last year, Lewis was uncertain about
whether he'd return. The Bengals beat the Lions and the Ravens to finish the
season at 7-9, and Brown was convinced to stick with him for two more years.

"They were high-level teams giving it their best effort Kyle Long Jersey
Youth
, and we beat both of them," said Brown of two teams that
finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs. The Lions fired Jim Caldwell after the
season.

The Bengals finished last in the league on offense 鈥?a franchise first 鈥?and
the defense slipped to 30th in the league against the run, its worst ranking
since 1998. Brown thinks the team came close to having a successful season, and
he held his index finger and thumb a half-inch apart to make his point.

"Sometimes we fell short by about that far," he said. "Nobody wants to
remember that, either. We know that we have to do better 鈥?believe, me, we know
it. But I think we're in the situation where we can rebound best, rebound
quickest with Marvin."

EIFERT OUT: Tight end Tyler Eifert was among a group of players who worked
out on a side field Thursday while the rest of the team practiced. Eifert was
limited to two games last season because of a recurring back problem that
required surgery. He signed a one-year contract for 2018 and missed minicamp.
Eifert declined to comment as he left the field. Linebacker Vontaze Burfict also
worked out on the side field. He'll miss the first four games of the season on a
suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancers.

NOT YET READY: Receiver Devonte Boyd, cornerback Davontae Harris, H-back Ryan
Hewitt, guard Christian Westerman and safety Tyrice Beverette also are being
held out of practice as they recover from injuries. In addition, the Bengals put
offensive tackle Javarius Leamon on the list of players who didn't report for
camp, and they signed receiver Jared Murphy.

FIRST INJURY: Guard Rod Taylor injured his right knee during practice and was
taken off the field on a cart. Taylor is a seventh-round pick from
Mississippi.

.
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