HOUSTON — James Harden had 37 points and the Houston Rockets snapped a four-game skid with a 117-111 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night.
The Rockets trailed for much of the early part of this game but used a big run in the third quarter to take the lead and hold on for the win. It was a much-needed victory for a team which called a blowout loss to Orlando on Sunday night “rock bottom.”
“We got a little desperate and we played harder and we played with a little bit more purpose,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “And then we made big shots that we hadn’t been making.”
Their losing streak, which matched a season-high, came after they won six in a row and dropped them to sixth in the Western Conference with the playoffs fast approaching.
“Hopefully we’ve learned our lesson and we don’t have to take any steps backwards,” D’Antoni said.
Harden vowed after Sunday’s embarrassing loss that they would turn things around. And they did against the Timberwolves thanks in large part to his performance and another solid game from Russell Westbrook, who finished with 27 points.
After Sunday’s game Harden said that things felt “strange” on the court, but said things started to feel normal after halftime on Tuesday night.
“In that third quarter it felt more fluid,” he said. “It felt more free. It felt more us.”
D’Angelo Russell had 28 points to lead the Timberwolves, who lost their third straight.
“I was proud of how our guys fought,” Minnesota coach Ryan Saunders said. “I understood what we were up against tonight. A team that was in a way desperate for a win … but I was proud of a lot of thing that these guys did.”
The Rockets led by 3 entering the fourth after scoring the last 10 points of the third quarter, and a 3-pointer by Harden with about eight minutes left pushed their lead to 94-86.
The Timberwolves got a 3-point play from Naz Reid after that, but the Rockets scored the next eight points, with the first five from Harden, to make it 102-89 midway through the quarter.
Minnesota got within 6 after a 7-0 run started by a 3-point play from Russell later in the fourth, but Eric Gordon made his first 3-pointer of the game to push the lead to 105-96 with three minutes to go.
Harden and Westbrook both had seven assists for Houston and Gordon added 16 points in his return after missing two games with a sore knee. Harden made five 3-pointers after making just five combined in the previous three games.
“We’ve just got to get back to us,” Harden said. “Get back to our swag. Playing free, playing Rockets basketball on both ends of the floor.”
Minnesota was up by 7 after a 3-pointer by Jarrett Culver with about two minutes left in the third quarter before Westbrook scored the next eight points to tie it at 80-all.
James Johnson was called for traveling on the other end and Westbrook found Austin Rivers for a 3-pointer at the buzzer to put Houston on top 83-80 entering the fourth quarter.
Timberwolves: F Kelan Martin sat out for the second game in a row with a sprained left ankle. … Juancho Hernangomez had 18 points and 10 rebounds. … Minnesota had 18 turnovers.
Rockets: G Ben McLemore returned after missing one game with a stomach ailment. … Robert Covington had two blocks on Tuesday and has had at least two blocks in 10 of his last 11 games.
Timberwolves: Visit Oklahoma City on Friday night.
Rockets: Visit the Lakers on Thursday night.