James Harden and Chris Paul’s first season together was a massive success, as the Houston Rockets finished the year with the league’s best record and a franchise-best 65 wins. Now, they’ll take on the playoffs, beginning with a first-round matchup against the Minnesota Timberwolves, who are in the postseason for the first time since 2004.
All games in this series will be broadcast on either ESPN, ESPN2 or TNT (full schedule). If you don’t have cable or can’t get to a TV, you can still watch all of the games live on your computer, phone, video game console, or other streaming device by signing up for one of the following cable-free, live-TV streaming services:
Hulu With Live TV: In addition to a Netflix-like on-demand streaming library, Hulu now also offers a bundle of live TV channels, which includes ESPN, ESPN2 and TNT. You can sign up right here, and you can then watch a live stream of the games on your computer via the Hulu website, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the Hulu app.
DirecTV Now: ESPN, ESPN2 and TNT are included in all four of DirecTV Now’s channel packages. You can sign up for a free 7-day trial no matter what package you choose, and you can then watch the games live on your computer via the DirecTV Now website, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the DirecTV Now app.
Sling TV: ESPN, ESPN2 and TNT are included in the “Sling Orange” channel package. You can sign up for a free 7-day trial, and you can then watch the games live on your computer via the Sling TV website, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the Sling TV app.
WatchESPN: You can also watch games that are broadcast on ESPN and ESPN2 on your computer via ESPN.com, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the WatchESPN app. Watching on these platforms require you to sign in to a TV provider, but you can use your Hulu, DirecTV Now or Sling TV credentials to do exactly that.
It’s not often that you get a 1 vs. 8 matchup with quite this much star power.
On Houston’s side, you’ve got the the superstar backcourt in Harden, the likely league MVP and offensive assassin, and Paul, arguably the league’s best floor general. But No. 1 seeds are expected to have stars. What makes this matchup so compelling is that Minnesota, the eighth seed, counters with Jimmy Butler, probably a Top-10 player in this league when healthy, and Karl-Anthony Towns, one of the most talented young players in the Association.
Overall, Paul (second), Harden (fifth), Towns (seventh) and Butler (ninth) all rank in the Top 10 in the NBA in offensive rating. In other words, expect to see some fireworks this series.
But while Minnesota has the weapons to maybe steal a game, it’s tough to overstate Houston’s greatness. The Rockets led the NBA in net rating, they went an absurd 44-5 in games that both Harden and Paul played (that equates to about 73.6 wins over an 82-game slate, putting them on par with the winningest team in regular season history), and they swept the season series against the Wolves, winning three of those by 18 points each.
Losing Luc Mbah a Moute for the first round is a significant blow, as the Rockets went “only” 13-8 without him in the lineup this season, but with Harden, Paul, Clint Capela, Trevor Ariza, Eric Gordon and PJ Tucker, the league’s best team should still have little trouble against a Timberwolves team that sneaked into the playoffs on the last day of the regular season.
Nevertheless, even if it does end up being lopsided, the amount of offensive firepower will make it an entertaining series to watch.