Notebook: Rockets 87, Timberwolves 84

Posted Dec 27, 2012 12:22 AM

Jim Bielby, for

THE FACTS: James Harden stepped up big in the fourth quarter and gave a tired Houston team enough to propel them to an 87-84 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Coming off a tough game last night in Chicago, Houston seemed a step slow, especially in the early minutes of the third quarter when Minnesota went on an 11-0 run to build a 14 point lead. But Houston's bench stepped up and provided some much needed energy, holding Minnesota to only one field goal in over seven minutes. Houston closed the third quarter with a 15-2 run of their own.

In the fourth quarter, Harden took over, scoring 17 of his 30 points and nearly outscoring the entire Minnesota roster. Minnesota's typically stalwart front court of Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic were utterly ineffective, especially in the second half. They came into the game averaging almost 36 points per game, but were held to nine points on 4-for-21 shooting. Love's 3-point shooting, in particular, was unusually bad. He almost air-balled his first three and he finished 0-for-7 from beyond the arc. By the end of the game, he was passing up relatively open looks, including one in Minnesota's last possession.

QUOTABLE: "Disappointing loss. We had control of the game in the third quarter and we let it slip away. Then it was anybody's game and they made the plays. ... I don't know why, but the whole team (went cold) after the third quarter. We just couldn't make a shot, which seems to be a trend."
-- Minnesota coach Rick Adelman

THE STAT: Despite being the 29th ranked defense and despite playing the end of a back-to-back, Houston held Minnesota to 38.1% shooting, one of Minnesota's worst shooting performances of the year.

TURNING POINT: J. J. Barea had a strong game for Minnesota, leading the team with 18 points. But he turned the ball over three times in the final four minutes, including a turnover with 31.9 seconds and Minnesota trailing by one. That turnover put the ball in Harden's hands a final time and his driving lay-up put the game on ice for Houston.

QUOTABLE II: "We started to get some traction (in the third quarter), which was good. I think that group went on a 11-2 run. It's a lot easier to sit (Harden) when you are making runs. But I knew that I would eventually go back to him. It's not like we were going to sit him all night."
-- Houston coach Kevin McHale

HOT: Harden was 6-for-9 from the field and a perfect 4-for-4 from the line in the fourth quarter.

NOT: Love was 0-for-6 after the first quarter and did not even take a 2-point shot in the second half.

ROOKIE WATCH: Alexey Shved has started the last seven games. He has averaged 7.2 assists per game in the last six. Tonight he scored 16 points and dished out three assists. He ranks second among rookies in assists at 4.5 apg.

NOTABLE: Tonight's Target Center crowd of 20,340 was the third largest in a regular season game in Minnesota history. ... Just under 1,000 standing-room only tickets were sold. ... Minnesota had won their last five home games and Houston was 0-6 this season on the road against Western conference opponents. ... Houston has averaged 122 points in their last three games, outscoring their opponents by more than 23 points per game. ... Minnesota had won the last three games against Houston. ... Prior to that, they dropped 15 out of the last 16 games.

UP NEXT: For the Wolves, Saturday vs. Phoenix, Wednesday at Utah, and Thursday at Denver. For the Rockets, Friday at San Antonio, Saturday vs. Oklahoma City, and Monday vs. Atlanta.