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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