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Harden, Rockets bury Timberwolves

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Harden, Rockets bury Timberwolves
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HOUSTON — Guard James Harden rebounded from a sluggish first quarter with an eruptive second quarter, pacing the Houston Rockets to a 20-point turnaround and a 129-106 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday night at the Toyota Center.

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Harden finished with 28 points and eight assists as the Rockets (46-22) extended their home winning streak to 10 games. He committed four turnovers in the first quarter while missing two of his three shots from the field. Once the second quarter commenced, Harden performed up to All-Star capabilities.

With the Timberwolves (34-33) leading 41-31, Harden scored 10 points during a 17-0 Houston run. He added two free throws that pushed the lead to 59-50 with 2:16 remaining in the half before burying a 3-pointer for a 64-54 lead at the break. Harden scored 17 points in the second quarter.

The Rockets pushed their lead to 21 points in the third quarter in applying the knockout blow. They did so despite exceptional performances from Timberwolves forward Kevin Love (29 points) and center Gorgui Dieng, who posted his third consecutive double-double and career highs in points (22) and rebounds (21) subbing for injured Nikola Pekovic (right ankle).

Rockets forward Chandler Parsons added 19 points and nine rebounds, and guard Patrick Beverley scored 11 of his 14 points in the first quarter. Forward Donatas Motiejunas (20 points, six rebounds) and guard Jeremy Lin (11 points, 10 assists) sparked the Houston bench.

Minnesota took advantage of seven first-quarter Rockets turnovers to establish a 33-27 lead entering the second. The Timberwolves outworked Houston on the glass and for loose balls, prompting Rockets coach Kevin McHale to call a timeout out of frustration after Minnesota parlayed a 14-4 run into that 41-31 lead. That is when Harden emerged.

After shooting a season-best 58.2 percent from the field in their win over the Utah Jazz on Monday night, the Rockets shot 57.6 percent against Minnesota. Houston committed just eight turnovers after its sloppy first quarter.

Notes: The Cavaliers had nine players available for Thursday night’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder and that included D-League call-up Shane Edwards. F Luol Deng (left ankle sprain), G/F C.J. Miles (left ankle sprain) and G/F Sergey Karasev (left patellar tendinitis) were held out of the Thunder game. They were added to the injury list that already included G Kyrie Irving (strained biceps tendon), F Anthony Bennett (strained patellar tendon) and G Carrick Felix (left patellar stress fracture). ... There are rumors the Cavs might sign G Seth Curry to a 10-day contract. ... The Thunder are playing without three starters in G Thabo Sefolosha (left calf strain), C Kendrick Perkins (left groin strain) and G Russell Westbrook (right knee). Oklahoma City started Reggie Jackson and Andre Roberson in the backcourt. ... Cavs coach Mike Brown said he refused to fill out an NCAA tournament bracket this year. “It’s my own protest because my son’s team didn’t make it,” he said. “If I picked another team, it wouldn’t be faithful to the Butler Bulldogs.” His son, Elijah, is a freshman at Butler. ... Thunder coach Scott Brooks likes what he’s seen of forward Caron Butler, who signed with the Thunder on March 1. He likes his experience, toughness and ability to make shots. “He’s not afraid to take shots, either,” Brooks said. “He’s a big body who can bang.”

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