In five previous years in Houston, Harden's Rockets have been one-and-done three times in the playoffs.
The Minnesota Timberwolves played about as well defensively as they could have hoped in Game 1 against the Houston Rockets and it still wasn't enough. Houston, the deadliest 3-point shooting team in the game, went just 10 for 37 from deep. It was clear why fans were cheering "MVP" every time Harden went to the line.
In the last regular season meeting between the two teams in March, Gerald Green was ejected in the fourth quarter for coming to Chris Paul's defense after Minnesota's Gorgui Dieng pushed Paul down after a foul. On the next possession, Harden drove to the basket again to increase the lead to five.
Minnesota slowed down the rest of Houston's attack enough to still have a chance at the end. A bad pass by Chris Paul gave the Timberwolves a chance to tie it with 1.5 seconds left, but Jimmy Butler's shot was short.
While the Wolves could be pleased with their defensive effort keeping the Rockets well below their season average for total scoring, but there were plenty of disappointing offensive performances on the offensive side.
Jeff Teague flirted with a triple-double (15 points, nine rebounds, eight assists) while Derrick Rose added 16 points off the bench for Minnesota.
No one expected the eighth-seeded Wolves to win Game 1 - many don't expect them to win a game in this series - but Sunday set up well for the upset. But in the opener, Harden won the battle of the stars by a very wide margin.
He's no Harden or Paul, but Mbah a Moute played a strong supporting role in all four Rockets wins over the Wolves this year. Towns, Butler and Andrew Wiggins, who scored 18 on 7-for-15 shooting, will have to produce much more offensively for the underdog Wolves to have a shot.