Self-assured Harden leads Rockets over Timberwolves
HOUSTON — The Houston Rockets were trailing Minnesota by 10 points early in the second quarter on Thursday night when a very unhappy Kevin McHale called a timeout hoping to help his team get on track.
James Harden wasn’t worried and told his coach as much.
”He was fired up but I told him: `It’s OK. We’re going to be all right,’ ” Harden said.
And they were. Houston scored 17 straight points after that timeout, led by 10 from Harden, to take the lead and roll to an easy 129-106 win.
”We weren’t playing very well,” McHale said. ”So I got into them a little bit and they responded.”
Harden had 28 points with eight assists, Donatas Motiejunas added a career-best 20 points and Chandler Parsons had 19 points for Houston.
Houston never trailed after the 17-0 run and padded the advantage with another big run to start the third quarter.
It was Houston’s second straight game without Dwight Howard, who sat out with a strained left ankle. Omer Asik started in his place and filled in ably with a season-high-tying 12 points as the Rockets won for the seventh time in 10 games.
”Obviously we want Dwight back as soon as possible,” Parsons said. ”But Omer is so good you don’t miss much out there on the floor. . . . We have a real luxury having both of those guys down there.”
Kevin Love had 29 points and rookie Gorgui Dieng 22 points and 21 rebounds, which were both career-highs. He has had a double-double in each of his three starts, which have come in the last three games.
”In the first quarter we came out pretty good,” Minnesota coach Rick Adelman said. ”Then they had that run on us and it really wasn’t a game from that point on. We weren’t scoring at all and we weren’t getting back and they seemed to have their way.”
Ricky Rubio had five points, eight assists and two rebounds for Minnesota a night after posting his third career triple-double with 22 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds in a 123-122 overtime win at Dallas.
”We came off an overtime game and we just didn’t seem to have energy,” Love said. ”These are the dog days where you’re trying to give everything you’ve got and sometimes it’s just not good enough.”
Houston led by 10 at halftime and opened the third quarter with a 16-7 spurt to extend the lead to 80-61 with about 8-1/2 minutes left in the quarter.
Harden, who finished with six 3s, and Patrick Beverley both made 3-pointers during that run and Asik had seven points with a pair of dunks.
Love hit a 3-pointer after that before Terrence Jones made four quick points to push the lead to 84-64.
Luc Mbah a Moute went up for a dunk later in the quarter, but it was blocked by Asik, drawing oohs from the crowd when it happened live and again when it was replayed on the jumbotron. Asik finished with four blocks.
Houston was up by 21 soon after that when the Timberwolves cut into the lead with an 8-0 run thanks to two 3-pointers by Love to make it 89-76.
The Rockets led by 98-82 entering the fourth quarter.
Jones had 10 points and Beverley had 14 as all five Rockets’ starters scored in double digits.
”When we move the basketball like that, everyone is going to score,” Harden said. ”It gives each and every guy confidence to make that right pass and to shoot the basketball. So, when we play like that, it’s tough to beat us.”
The lead was 16 midway through the fourth quarter when the Rockets went on another run — this one 8-3 — to make it 118-97. Harden scored the last five points in that span before sitting down for the night.
Minnesota got within five points late in the second quarter, but the Rockets used a 9-4 run, capped by another 3 from Harden, to end the half up 64-54.
NOTES: Minnesota C Nikola Pekovic didn’t play for the third straight game because of a sore right ankle. . . . Houston Texans running back Arian Foster and 2012 Heisman Trophy winner and former A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel sat together in seats behind the Rockets bench. . . . Dieng is the sixth player since the NBA began tracking starts in 1970 to have at least 20 points and 20 rebounds within his first three career starts.