Harden sparks crucial win

James Harden of the Houston Rockets tips the ball in against Jimmy Butler (left) and Karl-Anthony Towns during the 119-100 Game 4 victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Harden missed all seven of his shots in the opening quarter, but scored 22 p
James Harden of the Houston Rockets tips the ball in against Jimmy Butler (left) and Karl-Anthony Towns during the 119-100 Game 4 victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Harden missed all seven of his shots in the opening quarter, but scored 22 points in the third quarter and finished with 36 points.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Rockets lead Wolves 3-1 as guard turns the game around after his wayward 1st quarter

MINNEAPOLIS (Minnesota) • Fans of the Houston Rockets know that they should never write off their star guard James Harden, regardless of how poorly he plays.

In Minnesota on Monday, Harden started Game 4 of the National Basketball Association (NBA) first-round play-off series against the Timberwolves 0-of-7 from the floor.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, that was his most misses in a quarter without a field goal.

But he ended the night by scoring a franchise play-off record of 22 points in the third quarter to ignite a sudden offensive eruption as the Rockets seized control of their Western Conference series with a 119-100 victory.

Harden poured in a game-high 36 points. He shot 7-for-10 in the third as the Rockets matched their first-half scoring output with 50 points.

The 50 points in a quarter fell just shy of the NBA play-off record, which belongs to the Los Angeles Lakers, who scored 51 points in the fourth quarter of a play-off defeat by the Detroit Pistons in 1962.

Houston, who hold a 3-1 series lead, can wrap up the best-of-seven series in Game 5 at home today.

"We hit the switch that we've been trying to hit since the beginning of the play-offs, at both ends of the court," Harden said on TNT after the game.

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

"Great quarter for us. Gave us the (series) lead. Now we go back to the crib and try to finish it off."

Chris Paul scored 25 points, Eric Gordon had 18 and Trevor Ariza, who kept the cold-shooting Rockets afloat with 11 first-quarter points, chipped in 15. Clint Capela finished with a double-double of 14 points and 17 rebounds while blocking four shots.

Paul added six rebounds, six assists and five steals to his stat line.

"For myself and Chris, we had the mentality to be aggressive, make or miss shots," added Harden. "That's what we do. We shoot the basketball. Eventually, they'll start falling. That's what happened."

Karl-Anthony Towns posted a double-double for the Timberwolves with 22 points and 15 rebounds. Jimmy Butler finished with 19 points and nine rebounds while Derrick Rose produced another strong effort off the bench with 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting. Minnesota committed 17 turnovers and missed nine free throws.

Towns said, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the team are looking ahead to Game 5.

"We will be ready. We have to get ready for that next game. There is no time for us to put our heads down. We have to move on to the next game, fix our mistakes and be ready for Houston," he said.

In Monday's other game, the Utah Jazz moved to within one 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 lead 3-1 heading into Game 5 in Oklahoma City today.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2018, with the headline 'Harden sparks crucial win'. Print Edition | Subscribe