EditorsNote: adds Harden and Towns quotes
James Harden scored a franchise playoff-record 22 points in the third quarter to ignite a sudden offensive eruption as the Houston Rockets seized control of their Western Conference first-round playoff series with a 119-100 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game 4 on Monday in Minneapolis.
Harden poured in a game-high 36 points, authoring a remarkable in-game turnaround after his 0-for-7 start. He shot 7-for-10 in the third as the Rockets matched their first-half scoring output with 50 points.
Houston, which holds a 3-1 series lead, can wrap up the best-of-seven set in Game 5 at home on Wednesday.
“We hit the switch that we’ve been trying to hit since the beginning of the playoffs, at both ends of the court,” Harden said on TNT postgame. “It’s pretty scary what we’re capable of when defensively we’re locked in like that and offensively when we get rolling.
“Great quarter for us. Gave us the (series) lead. Now we go back to the crib and try to finish it off.”
Chris Paul scored 25 points, Eric Gordon had 18 and Trevor Ariza, who kept the cold-shooting Rockets afloat with 11 first-quarter points, chipped in 15. Clint Capela finished with a double-double of 14 points and 17 rebounds while blocking four shots.
Paul added six rebounds, six assists and five steals to his stat line.
Houston led 50-49 at the intermission before opening the second half with 11 consecutive points.
Following a 3-pointer by Jimmy Butler that cut the deficit back to 11 points, Harden caught fire by drilling a 3-pointer, converting a driving layup and adding a pair of free throws. He scored 16 points before the midpoint of the period and later buried consecutive 3-pointers that pushed the advantage to 83-60.
When Gordon sank two treys inside the final 30 seconds, including one that beat the buzzer to end the period, the Rockets led 100-69.
The Rockets shot 9 of 13 from behind the arc and sank all 13 of their free throws in the third period. The third-quarter output was their highest of the season and the best in their postseason annals.
Karl-Anthony Towns posted a double-double for the Timberwolves with 22 points and 15 rebounds. Butler finished with 19 points and nine rebounds while Derrick Rose produced another strong effort off the bench with 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting. Minnesota committed 17 turnovers and missed nine free throws.
Towns said, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, looking ahead to Game 5, “We will be ready. We have to get ready for that next game. Obviously we’re disappointed in what happened tonight, but there is no time for us to put our heads down. We have to move on to the next game, fix our mistakes and be ready for Houston.”
Houston led by as many as 35 points in the second half.
—Field Level Media