Harden fires soaring Rockets over Wolves

AFP
The Houston Rockets moved to the brink of a Western Conference first-round playoff series victory with a 119-100 rout of the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday.
AFP
AFP

Chris Paul of the Houston Rockets goes to the basket against the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game 4 of their NBA Western Conference first-round playoffs at Target Center in Minneapolis on Monday. The Rockets won 119-100.

James Harden scored 36 points as the Houston Rockets moved to the brink of a Western Conference first-round playoff series victory with a 119-100 rout of the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday.

Harden underscored his status as frontrunner for the National Basketball Association’s Most Valuable Player award after leading a stunning third-quarter performance that saw the Rockets explode for an astonishing 50 points.

That devastating burst of scoring — a franchise record — included 22 points from Harden as the Rockets transformed what had been a 1-point contest at halftime into a comfortable victory.

“We hit the switch that we’ve been trying to hit since the beginning of the playoffs, at both ends of the court,” a satisfied Harden said afterwards.

“It’s pretty scary what we’re capable of when we’re locked in defensively like that and when we get rolling offensively.”

The win gave Houston a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 series, giving the Western Conference leaders a chance to book their place in the second round of the playoffs with a victory at home in Game 5.

The smart money will be on Houston to wrap up the series quickly after Monday’s demolition job at Minnesota’s Target Center arena.

Point guard Chris Paul weighed in for Rockets with 25 points — including 15 in the lop-sided third quarter — while Eric Gordon had 18 and Trevor Ariza 15.

Center Clint Capela finished with 14 points, and also pulled down 17 rebounds during his 31 minutes on court.

The Timberwolves’ scoring was led by Karl-Anthony Towns with 22 points, while Jimmy Butler (19) and Derrick Rose (17) also made significant contributions.

In Monday’s other game, the Utah Jazz moved to within 1 win of clinching their series against the Oklahoma City Thunder with a convincing 113-96 win in Salt Lake City.

Rookie star Donovan Mitchell made the decisive contribution for Utah with 33 points as Russell Westbrook and Paul George’s Thunder came unstuck.

Utah now leads 3-1 heading into Game 5 in Oklahoma City tomorrow.


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