Wolves can't hold off Houston

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 16, 2013 - 7:32 AM

James Harden played the entire second half and energized a Rockets team that’s aimed toward one of the West’s final playoff spots by scoring 25 of those 37 points after halftime.

 

– On Friday morning, All-Star guard James Harden walked off the Toyota Center court after shootaround and suggested he might not play later because of a right foot that has throbbed for a week.

On Friday night, he delivered a 37-point, 8-assist, 7-rebound performance that brought the Rockets back from 20 points behind to beat the Timberwolves 108-100.

Good thing that sore right foot didn’t hurt any more than it did, huh?

“Didn’t look like it to me,” said Luke Ridnour, the Wolves’ undersized shooting guard asked to defend the guy with that beard a good bit of the night. “He looked good to me.”

His team trailing by 20 points just seconds into the third quarter, Harden played the entire second half and energized a Rockets team that’s aimed toward one of the West’s final playoff spots by scoring 25 of those 37 points after halftime.

He changed the pace of a game nearly all by himself, slowing down the Wolves’ efficient first-half offense by getting to the free-throw line 18 times, 13 of those attempts in a second half when he played the parts of both scorer and playmaker with equal aplomb.

“One play, we had three guys on him and he kicked it out,” said Wolves forward Derrick Williams, who played against Harden in Los Angeles since Williams was a ninth-grader. “He’s tough. When you’re trying to double-team James and you’re leaving guys open, it’s hard. It’s hard on all of us.”

Harden scored 15 points in the third quarter to get the Rockets back in sight and when the Wolves defense turned its attention to him in the fourth quarter, Rockets reserve forward Greg Smith found space in the seams, scoring 10 of his 12 points in the final quarter.

“We fluctuate a bit,” Houston coach Kevin McHale said simply about a team that trailed 59-39 and didn’t lead all night until Jeremy Lin’s three-pointer with 5:30 left sent the Rockets roaring away on a decisive 16-6 run. “James threw us on his back for awhile.”

The two teams wrapped up a season series Friday that finished very much the same as it started, with the Rockets rallying from 14 behind when Harden scored 17 fourth-quarter points in an 87-84 victory at Target Center the day after Christmas.

Harden credited the Rockets’ intensified second-half defense for the turnabout.

Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio blamed himself for a second half in which the team’s ball movement stuck after it had flowed so efficiently for the game’s first 24 minutes.

He also suggested a collective lack of will and an abundance of fatigue on a night when the Rockets played more guys (10) than the Wolves had healthy (9).

“Maybe we were running out of gas,” Rubio said. “These kinds of games you can see who wants to win and who doesn’t want it. I know they’re fighting for a playoff spot and our chances are basically over, but we can’t play like that. We have to want to win every game. In the fourth quarter, it seemed like we didn’t want to win and that can’t happen.”

Afterward, Wolves coach Rick Adelman looked like a man — just seven victories away from 1,000 NBA career victories — whose team had lost for the 26th time in its last 32 games.

“I don’t know, I don’t know,” he said, answering one question about the game. “Write what you want. They obviously played better in the second half, and we didn’t.”

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Houston 1 FINAL
Miami 1
Philadelphia 1 FINAL
Minnesota 7
St. Louis 3 FINAL
Detroit 4
Baltimore - WP: T. Wilson 10 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: S. Baker 2
Boston 9 FINAL
Tampa Bay 6
Toronto 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 8
Atlanta 5 FINAL
Toronto 3
Washington 2 FINAL
NY Mets 10
Chicago Cubs 5 FINAL
Cincinnati 9
San Diego 3 FINAL
Texas 2
San Francisco 9 FINAL
Seattle 8
Colorado 4 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 18
Cleveland 3 FINAL
Milwaukee 2
Oakland 10 FINAL
Chicago WSox 4
Los Angeles 5 FINAL
LA Angels 4
Kansas City 10 FINAL
Arizona 5
Atlanta 100 FINAL
Charlotte 115
New York 80 FINAL
Chicago 111
Golden State 108 FINAL
Milwaukee 95
Oklahoma City 89 FINAL
Utah 94
Denver 114 FINAL
Portland 120
Nashville 4 FINAL
Washington 3
Arizona 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
San Jose 3 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 2
Anaheim 3 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
NY Rangers 2 FINAL
Boston 4
Tampa Bay 0 FINAL
Detroit 4
New Jersey 1 FINAL
Carolina 3
Florida 2 FINAL(OT)
Montreal 3
Ottawa 3 FINAL(OT)
Toronto 4
Los Angeles 1 FINAL
Minnesota 4
Columbus 4 FINAL
St. Louis 2
Buffalo 3 FINAL
Colorado 5
Dallas 4 FINAL(OT)
Vancouver 3
Arizona 78 FINAL
Wisconsin 85
Canisius 73 FINAL
NJIT 78
Notre Dame 66 FINAL
Kentucky 68
San Jose 1 FINAL
New England 2
Orlando City 2 FINAL
Montreal 2
Los Angeles 0 FINAL
D.C. 1
Sporting Kansas City 1 FINAL
New York City 0
Red Bull New York 2 FINAL
Columbus 1
Portland 1 FINAL
Vancouver FC 2
Colorado 0 FINAL
Houston 0
Seattle 0 FINAL
FC Dallas 0
Texas 54 FINAL
(1) Connecticut 105
Dayton 82 FINAL
(8) Louisville 66
(16) Duke 55 FINAL
(4) Maryland 65
Gonzaga 69 FINAL
(6) Tennessee 73

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