NBA: Harden scores 42 but Rockets lose to Timberwolves

Field Level Media via Reuters

Posted at Feb 14 2019 12:32 PM

Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) drives to the basket as Minnesota Timberwolves guard Josh Okogie (20) attempts to take the ball away at Target Center. Jesse Johnson, USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

Jeff Teague produced a double-double while Karl-Anthony Towns led a dominant performance in the paint by the Minnesota Timberwolves, who used a balanced scoring attack to thwart James Harden and the Houston Rockets, 121-111, on Wednesday in Minneapolis.

Rookie guard Josh Okogie provided a spark with 16 points and played energetic defense on Harden, but Harden still extended his streak of 30-point games to 31 with 42 points, matching Wilt Chamberlain for the second-longest streak in NBA history. Harden has recorded 22 40-point games this season.

Teague paced seven Timberwolves in double figures with 27 points and added a game-high 12 assists while Towns paired 25 points with a team-best nine rebounds. Dario Saric, Luol Deng and Taj Gibson recorded eight rebounds each as Minnesota posted a plus-10 rebounding advantage while also outscoring Houston 70-36 in the paint. The Timberwolves shot 54.4 percent.

Chris Paul added 16 points and eight assists for Houston while Kenneth Faried chipped in a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds.

The Rockets led, 65-56, on two Faried free throws at the 10:18 mark of the third quarter before the Timberwolves mounted the first of their two significant runs in the period. Minnesota pulled even with a 9-0 surge and later added a 12-0 burst to seize the lead.

Okogie was crucial during the latter run, producing a steal and block, both against Harden, while also converting a transition dunk and a 3-pointer that pushed Minnesota to a 77-74 lead.

The series of alternating runs began in the first quarter when, after Saric scored 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting for Minnesota, the Rockets closed the frame on an 11-2 rally to carry a one-point lead into the second. Houston surged without Harden, who shot 1 of 4 in the period, and instead relied on 15 bench points, with eight coming from reserve swingman Gerald Green.

Harden found his rhythm in the second quarter, scoring 10 points during a 16-6 Rockets run that turned a three-point deficit into a 51-44 lead. Harden totaled 20 points by the break and Houston led 58-52 at the intermission despite surrendering 34 points in the paint and playing to a minus-10 deficit on the boards. The Timberwolves shot 51.2 percent in the first half despite missing 5 of 6 3-pointers. That dominance on the interior and the glass paid dividends after the break.

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