Har­den puts muz­zle on Wolves

Hous­ton cap­tain scores 34 to lead Rock­ets over Min­nesota

China Daily - - HOLIDAY | SPORTS -

MIN­NEAPO­LIS — When­ever the Min­nesota Tim­ber­wolves threat­ened on Tues­day night, the Hous­ton Rock­ets had an an­swer.

And it usu­ally came from long range.

The Rock­ets drained 10 3-point­ers in the fourth quar­ter to pull away for a 126-108 vic­tory, ex­tend­ing their win­ning streak to nine.

“I knew we were mak­ing our shots, but that fourth quar­ter, that’s what we’re ca­pa­ble of,” said Rock­ets guard James Har­den.

“I think it was a four-point game when we went on a 12-0 run. That’s how fast it was.”

Har­den had 34 points, 12 as­sists and six re­bounds. Ryan An­der­son scored 21 points off the bench as the Rock­ets (43-13) snapped Min­nesota’s 13-game home win­ning streak and pulled within a half-game of the Golden State War­riors for the best record in the NBA.

Karl-An­thony Towns had 35 points and 12 re­bounds in Min­nesota’s first home loss since Dec 16 against Phoenix. Jeff Teague added 25 points and eight as­sists, and Ja­mal Craw­ford came off the bench to score 11 points af­ter start­ing 0 for 6 from the floor.

Min­nesota led by as many as 13 in the first quar­ter be­fore Hous­ton went on a run to take a four-point half­time lead.

Trail­ing by 11, the Rock­ets used a 15-3 run to take their first lead at 35-34.

Hous­ton used 3-point­ers to keep Min­nesota at bay through­out the game and then to pull away late. An­der­son scored 12 in the fourth quar­ter, all from 3-point range.

“Ryan shoots it deep, so we have to un­der­stand that,” Tim­ber­wolves coach Tom Thi­bodeau said.

“He’s prob­a­bly three feet be­yond the 3, so you have to close and have an aware­ness of that.”

An­der­son hit a pair of 3-point­ers early in the pe­riod to push Hous­ton’s lead back to double dig­its and hit two more later in the quar­ter.

Har­den also con­nected three times from deep in the fourth as the Rock­ets con­nected on 10 of 16 from down­town in the fi­nal pe­riod.

“Tonight they played a big lineup so we wanted to take ad­van­tage of our switches and our mis­matches, and we did that,” An­der­son said.

Af­ter turn­ing the ball over four times in the first quar­ter, the Rock­ets had just two turnovers the rest of the way.

That al­lowed Hous­ton to get its of­fense in a rhythm in the sec­ond half, when it outscored Min­nesota 72-58.

The Tim­ber­wolves trailed just 95-91, but Hous­ton hit four straight 3-point­ers to take a 107-91 lead in a span of just over two min­utes.

Min­nesota was just 6 of 23 from deep. Har­den and An­der­son each hit as many shots from be­hind the arc as the Wolves did as a team.

“It’s very hard to de­fend when they shoot 3s like that,” Towns said.

“If they’re hit­ting 3s and we’re com­ing back with 2s, they get a one-point ad­van­tage and an up-and-down pos­ses­sion. When they’re rolling like that, it’s very hard to stop them.”

Min­nesota’s An­drew Wig­gins missed his first 12 field goal at­tempts af­ter shoot­ing 55.6 per­cent in his pre­vi­ous four games. He fin­ished just 2 for 14. The Rock­ets’ jer­seys had the team’s name writ­ten in Chi­nese char­ac­ters on the front to cel­e­brate Lu­nar New Year.

JESSE JOHN­SON / USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Hous­ton Rock­ets’ James Har­den drives past Min­nesota Tim­ber­wolves de­fender Jimmy But­ler in the first half of Tues­day’s game in Min­neapo­lis. The Rock­ets won 126-108.

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