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on of himself.

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James Harden predicted Chris Paul would ”come back and drop 30” after not playing his best in Houston’s playoff opener.

Close enough.

Paul had 27 points and Gerald Green came off the bench to score a playoff career-high 21 as the Rockets used a huge second quarter to cruise to a 102-82 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night that gave them a 2-0 lead in the first-round playoff series.

Paul Hayden Hurst Youth Jersey , a nine-time All-Star, scored 14 points and tied a season high with six turnovers in the first game. Early on, it was clear that Paul wouldn’t struggle again as he had 15 points, three assists, two steals and a block by halftime.

Paul, who joined the Rockets in an offseason trade from the Clippers, finished with eight assists and three steals.

”I know he was beating himself up after Game 1, he called me and we talked a little bit and I said: `Don’t worry about it, the win’s all that matters so just come back and be aggressive,”’ Harden said.

Paul seemed to listen to his teammate.

”Just tried to push the tempo, tried to be aggressive … getting into the lane and getting a couple of easy ones early helped us,” Paul said.

Houston fell behind early but went on top for good with a 37-point second quarter, powered by four 3-pointers from Green, and the Wolves didn’t threaten again.

The top-seeded Rockets won the opener by three behind a 44-point performance from James Harden on a night when most of the team struggled offensively. Things were much different Wednesday when Harden went 2 for 18 and had just 12 points as one of four Rockets who finished in double figures.

Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns had another disappointing game, scoring all of his five points in the first quarter after being criticized for finishing with eight in the series opener.

Towns said he can’t be frustrated with how the first two games have gone for him.

”I think we all have to be better, including myself Youth Mike McGlinchey Jersey ,” he said. ”We’ve got to find ways. We can come up with some tweaks and be ready for the next game.”

The All-Star big man went to the bench with about seven minutes left in the third quarter and didn’t return, and coach Tom Thibodeau said Towns needs to ”play with energy.”

The Rockets tried to wear Towns down by using Clint Capela and the much-bulkier Nene on him in the first half.

”It’s playoffs and it’s a different ball game,” Towns said. ”The physicality is different and the way the game is played is different. We’ve got to adjust, accordingly.”

Jamal Crawford scored 16 points for the eighth-seeded Timberwolves, who are in the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

Houston was up by 22 points with about nine minutes left when Paul made two quick baskets to make it 91-65. The second came on a twirling off-balance layup over Nemanja Bjelica that earned him a standing ovation from the home crowd.

The Rockets were up by 15 at halftime and opened the second half with a 10-2 run to make it 65-42 with about nine minutes left in the third.

The Timberwolves had scored seven straight points later in the third when Green, the hometown player who was signed off the street in December, hit his fifth 3-pointer to leave the Rockets up 74-53 with about 2 1/2 minutes left in the quarter.

He was thrilled to be able to star in a playoff game in the city where he grew up.

”This moment that I’m living right now is everything that I’ve dreamed of since I was five or six years old,” Green said.

The Timberwolves led by as many as nine early and the game was tied with about eight minutes left in the second quarter before Houston scored 16 straight points, highlighted by three 3-pointers from Green, to take a 46-30 lead with about 4 1/2 minutes left in the first half.

TIP-INS

Timberwolves: Justin Patton sat out with a sore left foot. … Butler finished with 11 points. … Andrew Wiggins had 13 points and eight rebounds. … Minnesota shot 5 of 18 from 3-point range.

Rockets: Ryan Anderson, who returned to practice Tuesday, didn’t play after also sitting out in Game 1. Coach Mike D’Antoni said Anderson, who has a sprained left ankle, is likely to play Saturday. … Trevor Ariza had 15 points. … Houston made 16 of 52 3-pointers.

SPECIAL GUESTS

Rapper Travis Scott, who is a frequent visitor to Rockets games, sat courtside with girlfriend Kylie Jenner. It was the first time Jenner has attended a game in Houston since the couple welcomed their first child Authentic Luke Falk Jersey , a daughter named Stormi, in February. Also sitting courtside was rapper Lil’ Wayne, who received a loud ovation when he was introduced on the Jumbotron in the fourth quarter.

THEY SAID IT

Paul on Houston winning big despite Harden’s tough night: ”You give him 18 shots next game and see what happens,” he said with a grin.

UP NEXT

The series moves to Minnesota for Game 3 on Saturday.



It was just another routine throw in practice, a rookie quarterback tossing the ball to a rookie receiver.

When the two failed to connect, Julio Jones stepped in.

Do it again, he ordered.

"What a pure example of what we stand for as a group," said Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn, clearly pleased that one of the NFL's top players would even take the time to notice. "It doesn't matter who the quarterback is. It doesn't matter who the receiver is. What matters is getting it right."

Jones' leadership qualities could take on special importance this season.

Calvin Ridley was the Falcons' first-round pick .

Like Jones, he went to Alabama. Like Jones, he plays receiver.

The Falcons are counting on the rookie to quickly carve out a role in an offense that has plenty of weapons but needs to find ways to lure coverages away from Matt Ryan's favorite target.

Jones is certainly doing his part of help Ridley 鈥?and, by extension, his own pass-catching prospects.

"Everybody knows Julio is really, really good," Ridley said. "But people don't really know how good he is. He's so detailed in the plays. He knows everything. He's like a coach. He coaches me on everything."

Early in Tuesday's practice, undrafted quarterback Kurt Benkert 鈥?a longshot to make the team 鈥?was working with Ridley on a particular route.

They haven't gotten a lot of time together in practice http://www.coltsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-tyquan-lewis-jersey , so it wasn't all that surprising when the two were out of sync.

That wasn't acceptable to Jones.

"Julio was like, 'Do that one again,'" Quinn marveled. "That might've gone unnoticed to some people."

Even when Ridley makes a catch in practice, he usually has Jones in his ear.

"He says, 'You can do it better, you can lean on him, whatever it is,'" the rookie said. "It's like having another coach on the field. He's watching everything that all of us do."

While Jones took some heat from fans and the media for skipping offseason workouts and a mandatory minicamp in a bid to land a new contract 鈥?he agreed to report to training camp only after the team adjusted his deal for this season and promised to renegotiate in 2019 鈥?there is no question about the commitment to his teammates.

He shows it with his willingness to work with anyone who has a desire to get better, whether it's a first-round pick such as Ridley or a fringe player such as Benkert.

Jones is impressed with Ridley's work ethic and potential.

"I knew he was going to come in and be a hard worker," said Jones, a two-time All-Pro who has gone four straight seasons with at least 80 receptions and more than 1,400 yards receiving. "He definitely has all the tools to be a great wide receiver. The game just has to come to him. Just seeing things on the move and not thinking, that's the only thing. He's a rookie. He's going to have to think. He's going to see unscouted looks, things like that. You can't make that transition on the run."

While Jones has enormous physical skills, he knows his success as a receiver goes beyond his speed, size and hands. He keeps telling the rookie to pay attention to what's going on around him.

The eyes might be the most important attribute of all.

"Watching safeties http://www.bengalsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-logan-woodside-jersey ," Jones said. "Watching what people are trying to take away. Different concepts. Knowing what he can and cannot do on a route to help his teammates."

To give all the rookies an idea of what they're up against in Friday's first preseason game against the New York Jets, Jones showed a tape of his very first exhibition contest against the Miami Dolphins in 2011.

"We have a great group of young receivers on our team," he said. "But it's going to get blurry out there. You're out there at full speed, and you don't know what to expect. I told 'em, 'Just do what you do. Do what got you here. You don't have to go out there and make up things. The game will come to you.'"

Someone asked Jones for a critique of that younger version of himself.

"I was flying around," he said, breaking into a big grin. Just as quickly, he turned it into another teaching moment. "If you're a young guy, you don't want to bust a play and start looking around. If you bust it, go full speed. You'll get the next one."

Notes: Longtime Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed attended practice Tuesday at Quinn's invitation. In particular, the Falcons coach wanted Reed to stress the importance to creating turnovers. "One the best ball hawks of all time," Quinn said. "It was important for him to spend some time with the DBs."

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at s://apnews/search/paul%20newberry

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