James Harden gave Houston quite the jump-start with 22 of the team’s 50 points in the third quarter, as the Rockets cruised past the Minnesota Timberwolves 119-100 in Minneapolis on Monday night to take a 3-1 lead in their first-round playoff series.
“We had the mentality to be aggressive, make or missed shots,” said Harden, who went seven for 10 in the third quarter. “That’s what we do. We shoot the basketball, and eventually they’ll start falling.”
Chris Paul scored 15 of his 25 points in the near-record third for the Rockets, who turned a 50-49 halftime edge into a 31-point advantage after the torrid 12-minute span. The only team in the history of the NBA playoffs with more points in one quarter are the Lakers, who scored 51 points in the fourth quarter March 31, 1962, in a loss to the Detroit Pistons.
“It was a good time to do it. We’ve been talking about it for two years, putting the 50-piece up,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said.
Harden finished with 36 points on 12-for-26 shooting, Clint Capela had 14 points and 17 rebounds, Eric Gordon finally got going with 18 points off the bench and the Rockets easily recovered from their rough start.
Karl-Anthony Towns had 22 points and 15 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who were dominated on both ends of the court during the decisive third quarter and missed 14 of 21 shots over several possessions.
The Timberwolves rebounded from their two defeats on the road by matching the Rockets with 15 baskets from three-point range in Game 3, a startling development considering the Rockets led the league in that category during the regular season and the Timberwolves were last.
They wisely took another tack for Game 4, attacking the basket in the first half with relentless abandon and plenty of success while Towns watched most of the first quarter from the bench after picking up his second foul less than three minutes into the game.
Derrick Rose, who finished with 17 points and six rebounds, was the catalyst off the bench with multiple muscle-his-way-in layups on fastbreaks and in the half court. Starting point guard Jeff Teague, meanwhile, had only two points on one-for-seven shooting while fighting through an injury to his right pinky finger.
Trevor Ariza made the first three three-pointers tried by the Rockets, who then missed on 13 of their next 14 tries from behind the arc. Harden didn’t make a basket until 5 minutes 57 seconds remained in the second quarter, when his 10-foot floater fell in to cut Minnesota’s lead that was once 36-29 to 39-37. He swished one of his signature step-back three-pointers on the next possession, and Houston was right back in front to sow the seeds for the staggering third quarter.
Just like in Game 2, the Rockets raced out of the gate after the half.
at Utah 113, Oklahoma City 96: Donovan Mitchell scored 33 points to lead Utah to another win over the Thunder.
Joe Ingles scored 20 points and Rudy Gobert had 16 points and 10 rebounds. Ricky Rubio chipped in 13 points, eight assists and six rebounds.
Utah takes a 3-1 series lead back to Oklahoma City. Game 5 is Wednesday night.
Paul George scored 32 points and Russell Westbrook had 23 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Thunder. Oklahoma City lost its third consecutive game in the series after shooting only 39% from the field.
The Thunder opened up a 26-19 lead late in the first quarter when Carmelo Anthony capped a string of three consecutive Oklahoma City baskets with an alley-oop layup. They held onto the lead for much of the second quarter until Utah finally woke up on offense.
Starting with Rudy Gobert cutting to the rim for a dunk with 3:45 left in the second quarter, the Jazz scored on 11 straight offensive possessions to blow the game wide open. Ingles fueled the surge by hitting three straight three-pointers to put Utah in front 58-52 before halftime.
It finally culminated in another Gobert dunk that punctuated a 20-3 run extending over the second and third quarters that gave Utah a 67-52 lead.
“The whole year, one of the things that we’ve wanted to do collectively is try to generate open shots,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “You’re not always going to make them, but you want to keep taking them. Eventually, you’re going to make some. We hit some timely ones in the second half.”
In the third quarter, Utah went up 87-68 when Mitchell drained a jumper and then fed Ingles for a three-pointer on the ensuing possession.
Physical play and heated emotions characterized the game. Both teams picked up two technical fouls before halftime. Then Utah’s Jae Crowder was ejected with a technical foul with 5:30 left in the fourth quarter.