The Associated Press
MINNEAPOLIS–Although James Harden and most of the Houston Rockets were misfiring throughout the first half, their confidence never wavered.
In the third quarter, those sharpshooters sure came to life.
Harden had 22 of the team’s 50 points in the third, launching the Rockets past the Minnesota Timberwolves 119-100 last 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 7-for-10 in the third quarter and finished with 36 points.
“That’s what we do,” he noted. “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 still had a 50-49 halftime edge despite their rough start.
With those torrid 12 minutes, they built a 31-point lead and were up 104-69 about a minute into the fourth.
The only team in the history of the NBA playoffs with more points in one quarter was the L.A. Lakers, who scored 51 points in the fourth on 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,” noted Rockets’ coach Mike D’Antoni.
“And that starts with the intensity and the right spirit and everything.”
Clint Capela added 14 points and 17 rebounds, and Eric Gordon finally got going with 18 points off the bench, as the Rockets left the Wolves wondering what hit them after three-and-a-half games of decent defence against one of the league’s most dangerous offensive teams.
The Rockets scored on 11-straight possessions after an opening stop by the Wolves, and Harden alone scored 17 of their first 20 points.
“I’ve got to watch it again,” Paul said. “We just, I don’t know, got hot.”
“I think we came out a little flatter than last game. We didn’t come out right away with that straight grit in the third quarter,” noted Karl-Anthony Towns, who had 22 points and 15 rebounds for the Timberwolves.
Minnesota missed 14-of-21 shots, producing several panicked possessions over the third.
Perhaps that’s because they were so rattled by how suddenly and quickly the Rockets were scoring.
“We came out lackadaisical on both ends of the floor,” Wolves’ star Jimmy Butler said.
“We didn’t take anything away from them,” he noted. “They got whatever shot that they wanted.”
Elsewhere in the NBA, Utah beat Oklahoma City 113-96 to lead their first-round series 3-1.