Long Wolves road trip ends with 116-111 loss to Houston
HOUSTON -- James Harden had 29 points and 14 assists as the Houston Rockets bounced back from an ugly loss to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 116-111 on Friday night.
Harden's final assist came on a fast-break pass to Trevor Ariza for a dunk in transition with less than 15 seconds remaining to put away the game.
After allowing 72 points in the first half of a 122-106 blowout at the hands of the Clippers, the Rockets held Minnesota to 52 first-half points, including just 23 in the first quarter. Houston ranks among the league's worst in first-quarter points allowed.
Houston has won 10 of its last 11 games against Minnesota, including seven straight at home.
Karl-Anthony Towns led Minnesota with 32 points and 11 rebounds. Andrew Wiggins had 21 points, and Shabazz Muhammad scored 12 off the bench.
In their season full of turmoil that included the early firing of coach Kevin McHale, the Rockets have held multiple players-only meetings, which have, more often than not, resulted in wins in the following game.
They regained their defensive focus and rediscovered their offensive chemistry against the Wolves.
Patrick Beverley had 18 points, Donatas Motiejunas scored 17, Ariza added 15, and Dwight Howard had 10 points and 11 rebounds.
The Rockets held a two-point lead at the half, thanks to Beverley's 4-of-6 shooting from 3-point range.
After missing his first two 3-point attempts of the second half, Beverley made one from the corner, just feet in front of Minnesota veteran Kevin Garnett, who has been sidelined for nearly two months by a sore knee. After gesturing Garnett to hush, Beverley stared at Garnett as he ran down the court.
After a closely contested first half, the tide turned in the Rockets' favor in the third quarter. Howard had a thunderous dunk that rallied the crowd, and it was followed by a Minnesota turnover that led to Ariza's dunk in transition after a behind-the-back pass from Harden. The Rockets took a nine-point lead after those dunks and entered the fourth quarter up 10.
Houston visits Atlanta on Saturday, holding a 7-9 record this season in the second game of back-to-backs.
Timberwolves: Gorgui Dieng had 13 points, nine rebounds and five assists. . Minnesota ended its four-game road trip in Oklahoma City, Phoenix, Memphis and Houston with a 2-2 record before hosting Golden State and Sacramento on Monday and Wednesday.
Rockets: Houston improved to 21-5 when outrebounding opponents this season. The Rockets led the Timberwolves 42-35 on the boards, including 13 on the offensive end. . Veteran PG Jason Terry missed five of six shot attempts, including all three 3-pointers attempted.
Timberwolves: Host Golden State on Monday.
Rockets: Visit Atlanta on Saturday.